Troubling race, ethnicity, and masculinity in Beowulf
Sometimes we find the deepest intimacy not in sex, friendship, communal joy, or grief, but in shared anxiety. Drawing on a constellation of scholars of gender, Critical Race theory, and indigenous studies, this essay pursues an emotional archaeology by tracing anxieties around masculinity, ethnicity, and race that found their expression in Beowulf. Re-examining well-known scenes in Beowulf in dialogue with a variety of sources including The Laws of Ine, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, The Exeter Book Riddles, and Guthlac A, the essay argues that such anxieties – and the poem’s anticipation of such anxieties in its audiences – register the ways that the Welsh and the Danes are gendered and racialized in early medieval English literature. Demonstrating the importance of this intersectional focus and re-emphasizing Geraldine Heng’s arguments for the need to use the term ‘race’ in discussions of medieval literature, the essay argues that Grendel and his mother may have functioned as a focus for anxieties about Welsh indigeneity as well as Danish invasions.
Beowulf casts a long shadow over the extant Old English corpus, and the heroic verse through which we view the poem obscures a broader perspective on homosociality in early medieval Germanic cultures. Although Beowulf tells Hrothgar that it is better to avenge a friend than to mourn too much, the poem is full of mourning men, including Beowulf and Hrothgar themselves. This chapter rereads Beowulf with a focus on grief, masculinity, and the many sad men who grieve within the text: for example, when Hrothgar mourns for Æschere and bids Beowulf farewell, when Beowulf imagines a grieving father before his own death, and at each of the four funerals in the poem, especially that of the hero himself. The chapter then concludes that our obsession with emotional repression is an artefact of Victorian medievalism, rather than a reflection of early English heroic culture or masculinity, which privileged empathy. In this, Norris brings insights from Critical Race theory, especially from the work of Richard Delgado, to bear on the poem.
Old English literature does not share the humanist narcissism that denies animals access to symbolic language. In Beowulf, Wiglaf’s messenger to the Geats comes close to translating avian speech in his conclusion to a harrowing series of predictions: ‘se wonna hrefn / … / earne secgan, hu him æt æte speow, / þenden he wið wulf wæl reafode’ (the dark raven … will tell the eagle how he surpassed him in eating, when he with the wolf laid waste to the slain) (3024–7). This boast is the only Old English ‘conversation’ among the beasts of battle, and only its outline reaches human ears, at the triple remove of space, time, and voice. Its explicit content eludes the messenger’s human audience, and its oscillating valences have vexed modern translators. This chapter examines the forms of interspecies connection that inhere in this shrouded moment, arguing that such intimacies – trafficking in the symbolic, never fully translatable to the human – can open up new ecocritical encounters with Beowulf and contribute to larger discourses of ecocriticism.
Thousands of people died in Rotterdam during the Second World War in more than
300 German and Allied bombardments. Civil defence measures had been taken before
the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940 and these efforts were
intensified during the country’s occupation as Allied bombers attacked
Rotterdam’s port, factories, dry docks and oil terminals. Residential
neighbourhoods were also hit through imprecise targeting and by misfired flak
grenades. Inadequate air raid shelters and people’s reluctance to enter
them caused many casualties. The condition of the corpses and their post-mortem
treatment was thus co-constituted by the relationship between the victims and
their material circumstances. This article concludes that an understanding of
the treatment of the dead after war, genocide and mass violence must pay
systematic attention to the materiality of death because the condition,
collection and handling of human remains is affected by the material means that
impacted on the victims.
On 25 September 1911 the battleship Liberté exploded in
Toulon harbour. This tragedy is just one of the many disasters that the French
fleet suffered at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth
centuries and also represents the peak of these calamities, since it is
undoubtedly the most deadly suffered by a French Navy ship in peacetime. The aim
of this article is to study how the navy managed this disaster and the resulting
deaths of service personnel, which were all the more traumatic because the
incident happened in France’s main military port and in circumstances
that do not match the traditional forms of death at sea.
The construction of an underground car park beneath the main square of Turin,
Italy in 2004 led to the unearthing of the skeletonised remains of twenty-two
individuals attributable to the early eighteenth century. At this time the city
was besieged during the War of the Spanish Succession in a hard-fought battle
that resulted in unexpected triumph for the Piedmontese, a victory that marked a
fundamental turning point in Italian history. The current study assesses the
strength of evidence linking the excavated individuals to the siege and assesses
their possible role in the battle through consideration of their biological
profiles, patterns of pathology and the presence of traumatic injuries. This
article presents the first analysis of evidence for the siege of Turin from an
anthropological point of view, providing new and unbiased information from the
most direct source of evidence available: the remains of those who actually took
Based on a study of intersecting French archives (those of the Val de
Grâce Hospital, the Service Historique de la Défense and the
Archives Diplomatiques), and with the support of numerous printed sources, this
article focuses on the handling of the bodies of French soldiers who died of
cholera during the Crimean War (1854–56). As a continuation of studies
done by historians Luc Capdevila and Danièle Voldman, the aim here is to
consider how the diseased corpses of these soldiers reveal both the causes and
circumstances of their deaths. Beyond the epidemiological context, these dead
bodies shed light on the sanitary conditions and suffering resulting from years
of military campaigns. To conclude, the article analyses the material traces
left by these dead and the way that the Second Empire used them politically,
giving the remains of leaders who died on the front lines of the cholera
epidemic a triumphant return to the country and a state funeral.
Mercenaries are fighters who operate under special conditions. Their presence, as
shadow combatants, often tends to exacerbate the violence of their enemies.
That’s why the analysis focuses on the singularity of the relationship to
death and ‘procedures’ concerning the corpses of their fallen
comrades. As a fighter identified and engaged in landlocked areas, the
mercenary’s corpse is treated according to material constraints
pertaining in the 1960s. After violence on their body, and evolution towards the
secret war, mercenaries favour the repatriation of the body or its
disappearance. These new, painful conditions for comrades and families give
birth to a collective memory fostered by commemorations.