38 Karkov, Art of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 158.
39 Daniel Tiffany, ‘Lyric Substance: On Riddles, Materialism, and
Poetic Obscurity’, Critical Inquiry, 28:1 (Autumn 2001), 72–98, at 75.
I return to Tiffany’s essay in Chapter 2.
40 Ingold, Making, p. 31.
41 Craig Williamson (ed. and trans.), Beowulf and Other Old English
Poems (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011),
42 For discussion, see Nicholas Howe, ‘The Cultural Construction of
Reading in Anglo-Saxon England’, in Jonathan Boyarin (ed.), The
Ethnography of Reading
Moreover, Christopher Krebs calls the Germania ‘a mosaic of Greek and Roman stereotypes, arranged by a writer who most likely never went north of the Alps’; these mourning women and repressed men ‘are in many ways typical representatives of the northern barbarian, sketched within the Greek and Roman ethnographical tradition by … a Roman in Rome for Romans’.
Not only does Tacitus present mourning as women's work, but in this same passage he notes that Germanic peoples avoid both ostentation in burial and ‘the difficult
, based on the angle of a grave and the position of the sun. Subsequent investigation of ethnographic evidence reveals that death in pre-industrial society was more likely in the winter because of the cold and the relative scarcity of food (Brown, 1983 ; Rahtz, 1978 ; Bullough, 1983 ; Boddington, 1990 ; Kendall, 1982 ).
Also in the 1970s, Lewis Binford observed that archaeological sites were the product of human agency and he hypothesised that they would contain spatial clustering, which could be investigated by studying material remains (Binford, 1971 ). The
centuries (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983) might be useful to think with here, despite its association with the eleventh and twelfth centuries; see Nicholas Howe, ‘The cultural construction of reading in Anglo-Saxon England’, in Jonathan Boyarin (ed.), The ethnography of reading (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 58–79. However, the scenes that I am examining in Beowulf depict an oral (as opposed to literate or textual) process of recitation, even as the text of Beowulf itself is a more textual production. On poetic
Troubling race, ethnicity, and masculinity in Beowulf
find expressed in the poem in a dialogue where they can productively illuminate each other. Beowulf has always been a site of both utopia and anxiety for communities of men who desire an ethnically pure, hypermasculine mythical origin, as well as the dangers inherent in such a project.
Despite the historical, ethnographic, or sociopolitical data Beowulf may contain, it makes sense to treat it as a collective fantasy. Beowulf thus exists in a ludic space in which the anxieties, beliefs, and desires of different textual and emotional
philology: dynamics of textual scholarship (Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2003).
Daniel Boyarin, ‘Placing reading: ancient Israel and medieval Europe’, in Jonathan Boyarin (ed.), The ethnography of reading (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993), p. 19.