IMC 2005: Sessions

Session 1201: Heroic Ethics and Identities in Old English Poetry

Wednesday 13 July 2005, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:Mary Swan, Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds
Paper 1201-aThe Identities of Judith
(Language: English)
Abdullah Alger, Department of English & American Studies, University of Manchester
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English
Paper 1201-bRepetition and Variation: The Structural and Thematic Role of the Prologue to Beowulf
(Language: English)
Francis Leneghan, School of English, Trinity College, Dublin
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English
Paper 1201-cGift-Giving in Beowulf: Traditional Values and Social Implications
(Language: English)
Ingrid Wotschke, Independent Scholar, Magdeburg
Index terms: Archaeology - Artefacts, Language and Literature - Old English

Abstract paper a) There has been a mass of criticism published on the poem Judith. However, there seems to be no available study that has examined the nouns and adjectives that the poet ascribes to her character. This paper will examine the nouns and adjectives that are attached to Judith’s character as well as argue that they are strategically placed in three sections of the poem. The poet does not provide his audience with descriptions of Judith haphazardly, but uses a specific vocabulary when referring to her as a saint, a hero and a wife.

Paper b) My paper proposes two kinds of women inBeowulf: those who mourn, and those who avenge. While the Beowulf poet withholds censure of either group, neither the mourners, nor the women who pursue vengeance relentlessly are able to come to a satisfactory end. Only Modthryth, after she ceases pursuing vengeance for the ‘ligetorne’ she endures from her father’s retainers, achieves success. By extricating herself from the vengeance cycle, participating as neither a passive victim nor an exacter of vengenace, she is the only woman in the poem able to live happily to end of her natural days.

Paper c) Being based on descriptions of gift-giving in ll. 1020ff., 2152ff., etc., the paper is meant to contribute to the discussion of the origins of the epic.
Beside institutionalized traditions such as kinship ties and loyalty to the lord, aspects of social hierarchy and genealogical relations are historically evaluated and illuminated by archeological artefacts similar to the gifts mentioned in the respective parts of the text.
In conclusion, the implications of gift-giving in Beowulf point to a strong survival of relatively early poetic substance in the surviving manuscript.