Featuring essays from some of the most prominent voices in early medieval English studies, Dating Beowulf: studies in intimacy playfully redeploys the word ‘dating’, which usually heralds some of the most divisive critical impasses in the field, to provocatively phrase a set of new relationships with an Old English poem. This volume presents an argument for the relevance of the early Middle Ages to affect studies and vice versa, while offering a riposte to anti-feminist discourse and opening avenues for future work by specialists in the history of emotions, feminist criticism, literary theory, Old English literature, and medieval studies alike. To this end, the chapters embody a range of critical approaches, from queer theory to animal studies and ecocriticism to Actor-Network theory, all organized into clusters that articulate new modes of intimacy with the poem.
Despite the supposed game-changing nature of the Anthropocene as a geological
event, popular culture and literary theory have tended to intensify the
supposedly intrinsic value of human agency and survival. If there is a
sublimity in the articulation of the Anthropocene it has been predominantly
recuperative, where the threat to human existence intensifies a seemingly
necessary moral future. To think about material sublimity would be to
consider the Anthropocene as an inscriptive event that precludes the lures
of redemption that have accompanied the geological stratigraphy. By
exploring the logic of literary sustainability, which discloses an intimate
relation between survival and destruction, I argue for rethinking the
supposedly prima facie value of the future of what has inscribed
itself as humanity.
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 this poem allows a consideration of the range of intimacies generated by it as well as a conditioning of both the poem and its scholarship. Accordingly, this introductory chapter seeks to get intimate with Beowulf, drawing on critical discussions of affect, queer historiography, and contemporary literary theory in order to form a kind of dating profile that serves as a conceptual framework for the various modes of intimacy in and with the poem that emerge throughout the volume. Dating Beowulf coheres as a project in presenting a new set of readings – both critical and personal – that aim to generate new avenues of discussion for an Old English poem too often mired in critical impasses, and this opening essay frames the conversation accordingly, highlighting the various couplings and methodological approaches on display, while articulating the relevance of the early Middle Ages to affect studies and vice versa.
because of the repeated
assertions during this time period—many of which I have quoted in this
book—advising the reader against reading allegorically and claiming that
only general criticisms are intended.
Early modern literarytheory does not shed much light on indirect
satire because the connections that, for example, George Puttenham and
Philip Sidney make between satire and comedy thus emphasize more
aggressive, direct forms of satire. Sidney’s brief description asserts that
satire will “make a man laugh at folly, and (at length ashamed) to laugh at
himself ” and
The no-thing that knows no name and the Beckett envelope, blissfully reconsidered
, though it should be noted here that
they were equally concerned, albeit in embryonic form, with the
Beckett and nothing
interrelated questions of aesthetics, Marxism, literary form and
culture – though in this case it is probably fair to say that theirs
was more observation than critique. Looking back on the period
when these accomplished essays were written in the early 1970s
seems like a glance at a lost innocence, soon to be characterised as
nothing short of critical naivety; for the special issue appeared in
print in the fleeting moment just before literary
John J. Joughin and Simon Malpas
The new aestheticism: an introduction
The very notion of the ‘aesthetic’ could be said to have fallen victim to the success of
recent developments within literarytheory. Undergraduates now pause before
rehearsing complacent aesthetic verities concerning truth, meaning and value, verities
that used to pass at one time for literary criticism. The rise of critical theory in disciplines across the humanities during the 1980s and 1990s has all but swept aesthetics
from the map – and, some would argue, rightly so. Critical theory, of
Seven Types of Ambiguity ,which, alongside The Meaning
of Meaning produced by his tutor I. A. Richards and
collaborator C. K. Ogden, became foundational texts of the
‘New Criticism’, modern literarytheory, semiotics, and
the practice we know as ‘close reading’. Ever since,
literary scholars have parsed, deconstructed, interrogated, and
Critics working on satire in the past two decades have deplored the
limited influence of recent literarytheory on studies of satire, with Dustin
Griffin blaming the complexity and diversity of satire, which make categorization and generalization difficult, and Fredric Bogel blaming the resistance to theory among scholars of eighteenth-century literature (Griffin,
Satire, 31; Bogel, Difference Satire Makes, 5). The attempts by these and
other scholars to rectify this situation through more
‘generalized thinking’ of the Kantian notion of genius, cf. J. M.
Bernstein, The Fate of Art: Aesthetic Alienation from Kant to Derrida and Adorno (Oxford:
Polity Press, 1992), esp. pp. 66–135. The extent of my indebtedness to Bernstein will be
evident below; meanwhile, insofar as the paper draws on the work of thinkers like
Bernstein and Bowie who have challenged the anti-aestheticism of recent cultural and literarytheory and oﬀered a reconceptualisation of aesthetic theory as fundamental to our
understanding and experience of modernity, it could be classed as new
German Idealism, p. 242.
Ibid., p. 243.
Bernstein, The Fate of Art, pp. 4–5.
Ibid., p. 64. Kant’s example is to be found in the opening paragraph of §54 of the Critique
On the relation between spectrality and anachronism, see Derrida, Spectres de Marx: L’État
de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Internationale (Paris: Galilée, 1993)/Specters of
Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, trans. P.
Kamuf (New York: Routledge, 1994).
C. Chase, ‘Literarytheory as the criticism of aesthetics: De Man