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.
work and an object-oriented medievalstudies has started to take
shape. In 2008, Kellie Robertson published an article in Literature
Compass contending that medieval things were endowed with
an autonomy and agency that was largely misrecognised in the
wake of Enlightenment empiricism, concluding with a reading of
Chaucer’s Merchant’s hat.16 Robertson also contributed to a special issue of Exemplaria, edited by Patricia Clare Ingham in 2010,
Introduction: On Anglo-Saxon things
which was devoted to premodern culture and the material object.17
The term ‘postcolonial,’ although well established in reference to the history of the Americas since the nineteenth century, proliferated in frequency through the 1960s with the acceleration of processes of decolonization. Down through the 1970s and 1980s, ‘postcolonial’ remained for the most part a relatively straightforward periodizer of political order. In the wake of both deepening disillusionment with the regimes that had followed colonial rule and the movement into Western universities of intellectuals who had emerged out of the postcolonial milieu, dissatisfactions with existing national and developmental narratives intersected with a whole set of intellectual repudiations that travelled under the loose banners of ‘postmodernism’ and ‘poststructuralism.’ In the process, ‘postcolonial’ began a slow transformation from a periodizer of political order to a periodizer of intellectual and cultural dispositions implicated in the history of colonialism. As the term ‘postcolonial’ assumed significance in primary reference to forms of artistic and scholarly practice, the object of postcolonial scholarship increasingly shifted from a problematic of historical periodization to one of conceptual approach, so that since the turn of the millennium one has been able to speak of a thriving field of ‘postcolonial medieval studies.’
thingness and what
directions might further work take? What possibilities are opened
up by continuing to connect thing theory with medievalstudies
and what problems could arise? By progressing from issues of time
and change, to movement and assemblage, and, finally, breakage
and failure, this book highlights both the potentiality and difficulty of taking a project such as this forward. While the final part
of this book looked at how things break, how they fail to do what
humans want them to do, the brokenness and failure of theory
should not escape our attention either
back to the inception of British medievalstudies,22 imply that an understanding of the gendered nature of lordship will have implications for
our understanding of land tenure in general.
Sir James Holt’s analysis of twelfth-century social structures saw
noblewomen as pawns of men, used to seal political alliances through
marriage, their key role being to transmit land and titles to their
husbands. Holt’s view is important for the way it located the interactions between the key structures of family and lordship which defined
twelfth-century women’s roles. His
erotic interaction – as a kind of wilful and desperate anachronism whose internal and historical heterogeneity is aimed at raising the spectre of ‘intimacy’ with Beowulf , and thereby with early medievalstudies broadly conceived. That is, by ‘dating Beowulf ’ we mean to propose going
with , courting , hooking
with , etc. as a way to provocatively phrase a set of new relationships with an Old English poem.
But what kind of dating site would
John Lydgate’s ‘Soteltes for the coronation banquet of Henry VI’
shaped by the
materiality of the extracodexical text.
Materiality and extracodexical texts
Accordingly, this chapter focuses on participatory reading
as understood through the critical framework of materiality.
Materiality has flourished in medievalstudies in recent decades,
influenced by new materialisms and especially object-oriented
ontology, which provides a framework for understanding the
independent agency of things. Object-oriented ontology and
speculative realism provide the means to approach medieval historicity outside and around the perspective of the human
Reading practices and participation in digital and medieval media
engagement with digital media studies continue to offer medievalstudies productive ways of rethinking our assumptions about
medieval literature and culture.
In particular, examining participation in late-medieval literary culture through the perspectives offered by digital media
criticism and theory facilitates identification and evaluation of the
processes and procedures that shaped how readers engaged with
works, interpreted texts, thought of authors, and practised reading.
Indeed, focusing on participation in late-medieval English literary
inquiries track a larger ‘animal turn’ within medievalstudies
and an ecocritical strain within early medievalstudies.
Birds have drawn particular attention within medieval animal studies: not only the avian figures of the Exeter Book, but also the Bayeux Tapestry birds, the arguing pair of The
Nightingale , Chaucer's debating birds, and other medieval English
adaptations. Bryher's Beowulf is a queer, feminist masterpiece of documentary realism and modernist whimsy in which the Old English Beowulf plays a pivotal and underappreciated role, and whose marginalization within the field of early medievalstudies is a consequence of a masculinizing ethos that often goes unchallenged, even in feminist scholarship on the poem.
Throughout this chapter, I will argue that Bryher's Beowulf , while overtly a historical novel about the London Blitz during the Second World War, also practises a unique kind of queer