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Towson - FORL 221 - ENGL 221- Week One Notes - Class Notes

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Towson - FORL 221 - ENGL 221- Week One Notes - Class Notes

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background image 1 Beowulf 1.           Brief Background Old English was preserved until the Norman Conquest of 1066.
­ French speaking people infused (or corrupted, depending on your point of view) 
the English language.   Monasteries were the main centers of book production SEE INTRODUCTION IN BOOK 2.           Broad Themes Christian theology confronting pagan tradition Female agency (or lack thereof) The power of narrative to immortalize­ the hero lives on through storytelling  Materialism (treasure and word hoard) vs. narrative power 3.           Theme: Pagan Hero versus Christian Ethics Pagan: Beowulf’s boastfulness (or rather, honesty), and desire for revenge 
(Weregild), materialism
Christian: humility, desire to forgive, focusing on the being 4.           Recurrences Metapoetics: poetry about poetry (meta: of the self, self­referential) Alliteration: repetition of initial or mediate consonant sounds
­ “I could never 
bring it to bear in battle” (1660) Word­hoard concept: words only have value in circulation
­ Reinforced bond of kinship (remembrance, pride)
5.           Beowulf  Heroic traits/tendencies
­ Physical strength, great pride, confidence, accomplishes great feats (such as 
battling sea monsters) etc. Pride and closeness to his lineage/people
­ Loyalty 
­ Desire to exact Weregild or man­price (Anglo­Saxon and Germanic belief that if a
person dies, the victim’s side is allowed to exact revenge through paying or 
slaying someone with the same/similar rank)
Jesus/Christ­like figure
­ Does not have a wife: could tempt him to submit to bodily sinful desires 
­ Mother is Mary­like
­ 12 followers who ultimately betray him in battle (leave out of fear)
­ Wiglaf washing Beowulf’s wounds 6.           Grendel  Sinful (similarly to descriptions of non­Geats)
­ Linked to Cain
­ Isolated (outcast from the kinship that Beowulf possesses) 
background image 2 ­ Carnal, passionate desires: sex, alcohol (for Geats’ rivals), and food (they literally eat their fleshy desires) Sin/Christian Weakness 7.           Narrator Educates the reader not to be a pagan, despite their good traits
­ Pities them and is somewhat condescending
­ BUT romanticizes their culture
8.           Theme: the Power of Narration People may be almost inexplicably linked with objects 
­ BUT one needs to tell own story rather than remembering the objects
Focus on Beowulf’s non­biological son (Wiglaf) and his potential to continue the 
Christian Moral: Narrative matters over materials because one’s story will live on if 
circulated well enough 
More pagan moral: Legacy is immeasurable and will encourage honor and kinship 
­ They want to “cherish his memory”
9.           Theme: Flaw in Materialism  Descriptions of weapons: great descriptions of powerful weapons BUT they often fail
(vs. actual people such as Wiglaf) 
­ Example: Beowulf’s sword failed when he fought Grendel’s mom, so he had to 
use the sword by giants Earthly existence and possessions will fade and one shouldn’t want to be remembered
by it
­ Example: Beowulf’s men buried him with the horde so that they would remember
the person, not the stuff  Christian Moral: don’t put faith in material things 10.       Theme: Female Agency The Queen
­ Some agency: not intimidated by her husband’s commands
­ Wise: knows her husband and how to talk to him
­ Focused on Motherly role/devotion to son
Grendel’s Mother
­ Motherly role/devotion to son
BUT Manly: exacts man price/revenge: commitment to proper code of ethics vs. 
focus on grief ­ Devotion to kin elicits sympathy for the “fatherless creatures” (1345­1360) and  creates an abnormal lack of structure for social order Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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School: Towson University
Department: Foreign Language
Course: British Literature to 1798
Professor: K. Attie
Term: Summer 2015
Tags: Beowulf Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ENGL 221 old English Grendel materialism agency knight king Arthur Bertilak
Name: ENGL 221- Week One Notes
Description: Notes for Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Uploaded: 02/02/2016
4 Pages 12 Views 9 Unlocks
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