Beowulf translations by Seamus Heaney and Thomas Meyer
A reader sits down with a book. The book contains a translation of an old poem, a poem written – or composed, passed down orally, pieced together over time, eventually copied into a manuscript, edited and printed – in a dead language, Old English. The act of reading this poem in translation is a kind of intimacy. But what kind? The reader wishes to come close to, forge a connection with, the original poem in some way. Perhaps they want to hear echoes of the sound of the dead language, its rhythms and patterns; perhaps they want to get a sense
reorienting the presumed subject of analysis and granting that objects can, in certain senses and situations, have agency, ANT breaks down artificial bifurcations between the ‘social’ world and the ‘natural’ world. By deploying ANT analyses, the attentive reader can therefore better understand how non-human agents might have clear effects on the world formerly understood to include only human agents. In the case of the Finnsburg episode, ANT allows us to reconceptualize the types of groups that the poem describes. By paying special attention to the elemental intimacies of
Intimacy is etymologically bound to the medieval Latin word intimare , which denotes primarily a movement inwards, but also a mode of verbal communication, of making known, of announcing, of explanation. Today, these two senses are divided between, for instance, the adjective (‘intimate’) and the verb (‘to intimate’), and when juxtaposed they seem to represent two radically antithetical phenomena. The one tends to imply internalized private
I like large parties. They're so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The
Intimacy sells. So, apparently, does Beowulf : feature films, a TV series, operas, graphic novels, translations, and a pride of
Ordinary Intimacies in Emerson, Du Bois, and Baldwin
This essay reads James Baldwin in conversation with two unexpected interlocutors
from the American nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Ralph Waldo Emerson and W.
E. B. Du Bois. What draws these historically distant and intellectually
different thinkers together, their differences making their convergences all the
more resonant and provocative, is a shared mode of attention they bring to the
social crises of their eras. It is a mode of attention foregrounding how the
often unobserved particulars and emotional registers of human life vitally shape
civic existence; more specifically, a mode of attention provoking us to see how
“a larger, juster, and fuller future,” in Du Bois’s words,
is a matter of the ordinary intimacies and estrangements in which we exist,
human connections in all their expressions and suppressions. Emerson names them
“facts [. . .] harder to read.” They are “the
finer manifestations,” in Du Bois’s terms, “of social life,
which history can but mention and which statistics can not count”;
“All these things,” Baldwin says, “[. . .]
which no chart can tell us.” In effect, from the 1830s to the 1980s these
thinkers bear witness to what politics, legislation, and even all our knowledges
can address only partially, and to the potentially transformative compensations
we might realize in the way we conduct our daily lives. The immediate relevance
and urgency this essay finds in their work exists not in proposed political
actions, programs for reform, or systematic theories of social justice but in
the way their words revitalize the ethical question “How shall I
live?” Accumulative and suggestive rather than systematically comparative
or polemical, this essay attempts to engage with Emerson, Du Bois, and Baldwin
intimately, to proceed in the spirit of their commitment to questioning received
disciplines, languages, and ways of inhabiting the world.
Black Women as Surrogates of Liberation in James Baldwin’s
If Beale Street Could Talk
Marquita R. Smith
This essay analyzes how James Baldwin’s late novel If Beale Street
Could Talk represents Black women’s care work in the face of
social death as an example of how Black women act as surrogates for Black
liberation giving birth to a new world and possibilities of freedom for Black
(male) people. Within the politics of Black nationalism, Black women were
affective workers playing a vital role in the (re)creation of heteronormative
family structures that formed the basis of Black liberation cohered by a belief
in the power of patriarchy to make way for communal freedom. This essay
demonstrates how Beale Street’s imagining of freedom
centers not on what Black women do to support themselves or each other, but on
the needs of the community at large, with embodied sacrifice as a presumed
condition of such liberation.
Black Queer Feminism and the Sexual Politics of Another Country
This essay explores Black queer feminist readings of the sexual politics of James Baldwin’s Another Country. Recent work at the intersection of queer of color critique and Black feminism allows us to newly appreciate Baldwin’s prescient theorization of the workings of racialized and gendered power within the erotic. Previous interpretations of Another Country have focused on what is perceived as a liberal idealization of white gay male intimacy. I argue that this approach requires a selective reading of the novel that occludes its more complex portrayal of a web of racially fraught, power-stricken, and often violent sexual relationships. When we de-prioritize white gay male eroticism and pursue analyses of a broader range of erotic scenes, a different vision of Baldwin’s sexual imaginary emerges. I argue that far from idealizing, Another Country presents sex within a racist, homophobic, and sexist world to be a messy terrain of pleasure, pain, and political urgency. An unsettling vision, to be sure, but one that, if we as readers are to seek more equitable erotic imaginaries, must be reckoned with.
‘What's an old, 3000-line poem like you doing in a place like this?’
What would it mean to ‘date’ Beowulf ? And what do we learn when we try? This playful pun on one of the more controversial terms in the scholarship on the poem allows a consideration of the range of intimacies generated by it as well as a conditioning of both the poem and its scholarship. Indeed, we, the editors, sincerely hope that you, the
battle in God's war.)
While Beowulf and Andreas have been spotted together for about a century and a half, they usually only prompt the question: ‘Are they or aren't they?’ Few critics have wondered about the nature of their intimacy. The major exception is Richard North, who, in an essay in his and Michael Bintley's edition of Andreas , has attempted to tease out the nuances of this strange romance. North addresses some of the best-known borrowings from Beowulf : the
intercourse in the avian voices of Old English literature.
In this vein of ecocritical optimism, I too read in the bird language of Beowulf a profound moment of interspecies connection. But I argue that within Beowulf the human is excluded from and indeed denigrated by the intimacy of wild creatures; when birds gossip about human corpses, this intimacy thematises the breakdown of socially embedded human knowledge.
Beowulf is an ideal site for those creatures and readers drawn