Troubling race, ethnicity, and masculinity in Beowulf
reading and listening, it is anxiety that gathered so many audiences around Beowulf for so long a time. The purpose of this chapter, then, is to probe some of the points in the poem that trouble certain audiences in order to understand the ways in which these communities function emotionally in relation to the text. In particular, I pursue this work of emotional archaeology by tracing anxieties around masculinity, ethnicity, and race that found their expression in Beowulf – and that different audiences have projected on to it, first in Beowulf's sexualized encounter
cultural practice and shared semiotic knowledge. Within cemetery space, people shared a conceptual understanding by participating in episodic narratives which were specific to that place and those people. Because of this, burial practice was not universal; it might be interpreted differently by local, regional and individual agents depending on their own circumstances and experiences. It is for these reasons that broad questions like ethnicity, religious practice or afterlife belief and cultural death ways have proved difficult to address (Lucy, 2000b ). Sam Lucy ( 1998
, while the religious material also tends
to focus on Eastern figures and saints, like Margaret of Antioch and
Catherine of Alexandria, who are imagined in these versions as openly
in conflict with other Eastern religions. Guy of Warwick reworks these
themes into a more immediate, historical framework. Indeed, Guy
engages not only popular misconceptions of the East that we see so
often in medieval romance – frequently centred on its religious and
ethnic otherness, its perversity or licentiousness, and its violent threat
to the West or Christianity – but also historical
, like weapon use in the early Anglo-Saxon period, skating may expose a person to injury significant enough to cause skeletal trauma. Skating as an activity may be more common among members of certain ethnic or social/economic groups, or genders. A professional skater, for example, might have achieved their status helped by their economic background, which allowed them time to practise, or because some value systems of classes or families valued the activity or sporting achievements where others did not. Moreover, an individual skater might be unique, defying the usual
daughter who were converted
may marry one another, the biological son of a convert does not inherit
from his father, and biological relatives who converted may testify against
one another in a Rabbinic Court. The halakhic logic is flawless: familial
relationships are absolute only when they are within the Jewish framework.
Even one who departs from Judaism and cuts himself off from it cannot
sever his familial ties and remains within the ethnic family, which is part
of his identity. By contrast, one who joins the ethnic family as a proselyte
severs all of his previous
More recently, in a less Arnoldian manner, Carolyn Dinshaw has argued that ‘[d]efined by attachment in a detached world, amateurism in fact condenses a whole range of abjections from the normative modernist life course, including ethnicity and race, economic class, and sex and gender’.
Dinshaw's interest in amateurism as ‘a bit queer’ foregrounds the overlap between the
orientation, cremation or inhumation, or by differential density and the use of rows of graves. Interestingly, the objects usually associated with ethnicity seem more comfortably situated within familial or household, rather than regional, identities. Indeed, it may not be possible to see regional ethnicity at all, because by far the most important organisational principle seems to be local situation. Ultimately, it is the archaeologist and historian who have framed the Early Middle Ages in that mode; whereas Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, stories, laws and poetry were about
. (Amoraim: Sages in the time of the Talmud.)
8 b. Sanhedrin 27a; Avodah Zarah 26b.
9 b. Eruvin 659a–b.
10 b. Eruvin 69b; Hullin 13b, 41a; Horayot 8a; Avodah Zarah 64b.
11 In his book, Gary Porton calls them The Stranger Within Your Gates, Chicago
1994; see especially his conclusions, pp. 193–220.
12 W. Pohl, ‘Telling the Difference: Signs of Ethnic Identity,’ in: Strategies of
Distinction: The Contracting of Ethnic Communities, 300–900, ed. W. Pohl with
H. Reimitz, Leiden 1998, pp. 17–69.
Goldin, Apostasy and Jewish identity.indd 18
Beowulf translations by Seamus Heaney and Thomas Meyer
The word ‘nation’, indeed, while dating at least from the late medieval period in English, originally referred to a common racial or ethnic group rather than a political entity;
nation did not carry a sense of ‘country’ until at least the early modern period, and the modern nation-state arguably did not emerge until the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.
While elsewhere the frequently used leod could be glossed ‘people’ or ‘nation’, it does not