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DuBois, Arthur E. “The Dragon in Beowulf.” 72.5 (1957): 819-822. PMLA . JSTOR. Web. 20 Nov. 2009.
This article begins by focusing on the exact meaning and misunderstanding of a symbol in terms of its use in literature. The author argues that symbols are not truly symbols without a specifically definition of what the symbol represents, which can be very difficult to attribute to many symbolic images within Beowulf . With this said, the author mentions many fallacies associated with the symbol of the Dragon in Beowulf , and attempts to discuss what it does not mean in an effort to understand what it does mean. This article is necessary to discuss the Dragon as a symbol in the story, and to assess potential meanings of this beast within the plot.
Elden, Stuart “Place symbolism and land politics in Beowulf.” Cultural Geographies 16.4 (2009): 447-463. Academic Search Complete . EBSCO. Web. 20 Nov. 2009.
The author of this article discusses the important symbolism within the story’s use of geography and inherent meanings of the lands used to describe the setting for Beowulf. Three of the major battle settings are discussed within this article in order to determine potential symbolic meanings of each land masses. These three settings include the battles between Beowulf and Grendel, Beowulf and Grendel’s mother, and Beowulf and the Dragon. This article will be used to briefly mention the importance of land in association with the symbolic image of the Dragon throughout the story.
Mizuno, Tomoaki “The Magical Necklace and the Fatal Corslet in Beowulf.” English Studies 80.5 (1999): 377-397. Academic Search Complete . EBSCO. Web. 20 Nov. 2009.
This article concentrates mostly on the unimportance of the magical necklace that is given to Beowulf at the celebratory “potlatch” party just after Beowulf had defeated Grendel. Although the magical necklace is argued to hold a symbolic meaning, the act of giving gifts to a prodigy is also discussed by the author. It is within this scope that this article holds true meaning for this essay because of the symbolic importance that exists within Beowulf for royal members to give gifts. A gift such as the golden horn was given to Beowulf and it too holds strong symbolic meaning for the story.
Puhvel, Martin “The Blithe-Hearted Morning Raven in Beowulf.” English Language Notes 10.4 (1973): 243-247. Humanities International Complete . EBSCO. Web. 20 Nov. 2009.
This article discusses the cultural meanings of symbolic images within the story, especially with regards to the “blithe-hearted raven” that is mentioned multiple times. The raven serves as a symbolic image of a death-eater but also as an image of grace over the battlefield, almost like a good luck charm or a bringing of good tidings. This suggests that many other symbols can have multiple meanings, and is an important discrepancy to understand when analyzing any image within the text.
Tafli, Hülya “Number, Colour and Animal Mysticism in Beowulf and The Book of Dedem Korkut.” Turkish Studies 3.1 (2008): 96-120. MLA International Bibliography . EBSCO. Web. 20 Nov. 2009.
This article compares the symbolic images and examples of number, color and animal images within two different stories. However, the importance of this article comes from its ability to validate the raven as a symbolic image, as well as the color black that is associated with the raven. This article is crucial in bringing additional analysis to the raven as a symbol and even attempts to discuss an alternative meaning that Puhvel neglects to mention with the discussion of color in relationship to the raven.
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- Literary Terms Vocab.
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Themes in Beowulf: Annotated Bibliography
Introduction, works cited.
Bravery – Beowulf is the most famous poem among the works of the Old English literature. It is the epic creation telling the readers about the strongest and the bravest of the English warriors of all times. The plot of the poem is concentrated around the life and the courageous deeds carried out by Beowulf as a warrior and as a king of his land. Nevertheless, such topics as bravery and destiny are the central ones in the poem, and this paper will focus on proving this. To begin with, bravery is the dominant feature of the protagonist of the story, as far as he is the strong warrior and no one can doubt his strengths. He is also aware of it, and when the king Hrothgar calls for him to fight the monster called Grendel, he agrees willingly, demonstrating his bravery:
“I have never known fear, as a youth I fought In endless battles. I am old, now, But I still fight again, seek fame still, If the dragon hiding in his own tower dares To face me.” (Beowulf, 624 – 628)
Boewulf was not afraid of the monster, neither was he afraid of any people who dared to criticize him or doubt his ability. Beowulf ideal of life was the life of a warrior and the major purpose was fame acquired through his bravery in battles. Beowulf was doubted by many people but his own confidence and readiness to face every kind of hardships for obtaining fame made his the unbeatable warrior. Even after falling in the battle, Beowulf stood up and did his best to win:
But Beowulf Longed only for fame, leaped back Into battle. (Beowulf, 502 – 504)
Destiny – Destiny is another dominant concept of Beowulf Epic Poem. As a brave warrior, Beowulf has never been afraid of death, and admitted that it was the fate of every soldier. For example, getting ready for the fight with Grendel, Beowulf asked his close people to always remember him and bring his fame to his Homeland. Beowulf also understood the inevitability of his destiny, and watched every battle as his last chance to win fame and respect of people. Thus, speaking about the result of his future fight with Grendel, Beowulf was not afraid to consider the consequences of his failure and resulting death, when the monster will take his life:
I shall shape glory with Hrunting, or death Will hurry me from this earth!” (Beowulf, 465 – 466)
The same can be said about the relations of Beowulf and the people of the country he ruled. Beowulf was a good King whom all the people respected, and he in his turn always paid attention to their opinions when a serious decision was to be taken. Discussing the future battle with Grendel, Beowulf demonstrated his courage and brevity once again by expressing the readiness of his own and of his people to die, if necessary, in the battle with the monster but to preserve the honor of the warriors. Moreover, understanding his destiny, Beowulf asked his people to calmly wait for the outcome of his battle with the monster:
My hands calm: I need no hot Words. Wait for me close by, my friends. We shall see, soon, who will survive This bloody battle, stand when the fighting Is done. (Beowulf, 640 – 644)
Man vs. Society – Being a descendant of a great family with long and rich traditions and fame of brave warriors, Beowulf was subject to the harsh pressure that led to the necessity to always prove his right for being treated as the hero and as the fearless warrior. On the one hand he was an ordinary human being with his own weak points and needs. On the other hand, however, the society demanded heroes in the difficult times when it was terrified by Grendel and other monsters. That is why, maybe even breaking his inner self, Beowulf always did everything not to lose the image of the brave warrior that he had obtained in numerous battles:
Then Beowulf rose, still brave, still strong, And with his shield at his side, and a mail shirt on his breast Strode calmly, confidently, toward the tower, under The rocky cliffs: no coward could have walked there! (Beowulf, 650 – 653)
Thus, the conflict between the man and the society is one of the central in the Epic Poem of Beowulf. The live and mentality of the warrior allowed no other alternative for Beowulf but being certain to die one day in a battle with his rivals or supernatural monsters. This understanding of his fate follows Beowulf through his all life, but even despite understanding its danger, there is nothing Beowulf can do to escape it.
Due to the conflict between the man and society, Beowulf has only one choice – either to keep winning fame in battles or be condemned as the one who proved to be a coward. The Medieval society was a rather severe phenomenon where the social position, respect and wealth of people was determined by their battle skills, courage and brevity. Due to this fact, Beowulf turned out to be the captive of the epoch and of the social structure he was the member of. As a real man, Beowulf could not allow himself to choose the second alternative, so he fought till death embraced him.
Man vs. Self – Moreover, another paramount conflict of the poem is the one between the man and his alter ego, his another self. Having the inner conflict between a necessity to always be strong and brave and a desire to be a ruler of a peaceful country, Beowulf strived for harmony within himself, and could not find the better way to establish himself as a destined winner but to fight the monster who terrified the Danes for a long time:
The Geats’ Great prince stood firm, unmoving, prepared Behind his high shield, waiting in his shining Armor. The monster came quickly toward him, Pouring out fire and smoke, hurrying To its fate. (Beowulf, 677 – 682)
Furthermore, the inner conflict between the man and his own self is observed in the poem in the episode of the battle that turned out to be fatal for Beowulf. Fighting with the monster to win fame and release people from the terror they lived with for several years, Beowulf was, however, first of all a king of his state who strived at bringing peace and wealth to his people. But the battle broke his hopes and plans, turning Beowulf into an ordinary warrior who fell in the battle field out of the glorious king famous all over the world for his brave deeds:
As Beowulf fell back; its breath flared, And he suffered, wrapped around in swirling Flam – a king before but now A beaten warrior (Beowulf, 705 – 708)
Thus, the two major conflicts of the poem, namely the man vs. society and the man vs. self turned out to be fatal for the poem’s protagonist. Beowulf needed to conform to the demands and standards of the society he lived in and due to this he took up the path of a warrior. Living the life of battles, fights and constant danger his destiny was to fall in a battle, and his inner conflict between what was demanded and what he desired for himself was the result of Beowulf’s understanding of this. The desire to rule his land and develop it was conflicted by the need to fight, and the possibility to die in one of those fights.
Christian and Pagan Ideals – As far as the poem of Beowulf was composed in the times when Europe experienced serious changes in its political, cultural and religious life, the ideas and ideals reflected in this literary work are rather complicated. The point of this part is to consider the influences of Christianity and Pagan religious cults upon the poem and main ideas it expresses. To start with, it is necessary to state that the poem is influenced by both Christian and Pagan beliefs and traditions, and this fact can be easily explained.
First of all, the time of the poem composing was rather difficult for Europe. The Roman Empire was destroyed and numerous kingdoms started appearing all over its former territory. These kingdoms were Barbaric and worshiped mainly Pagan religions, while missionaries from Rome and Byzantine worked on their conversion to Christianity. Due to this, the transition period from one religious organization of the society to another one demanded time and effort, while the lives of people were subject to diverse influences.
The same can be said about the influences upon arts and literature in particular. Beowulf, thus, as a poem reflecting the views and experiences of ordinary people, is the best demonstration of the confusion that dominated the society in that period. Thus, the pagan beliefs in supernatural creatures and monsters exercising terrible powers are combined in the poem with addresses to the God and requests for His help:
Woven metal had not helped-and Holy God, who sent him victory, gave judgment For truth and right, Ruler of the Heavens, Once Beowulf was back on his feet and fighting (Beowulf, 526 – 529).
However, the central events of the poem, i. e. the battles with monsters during which Beowulf displayed supernatural powers and strengths are clear references to the Pagan past of the society. Such images as Grendel, his mother she-wolf, the dragon breathing with fire, etc. are obviously taken from the Pagan legends and beliefs, and skillfully incorporated into the whole picture of the poem, and of the world it depicts. Thus, the poem of Beowulf is a marvelous piece of literature of the Old English period which was influenced by both Christian and Pagan ideas and beliefs but managed to create the integral picture out of these ideas.
Niles, John. Ed., Seamus Heaney, Transl. Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition. W. W. Norton, 2007 (lines 449-1485).
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Example Of Poetic Devices In Beowulf Annotated Bibliography
Type of paper: Annotated Bibliography
Topic: Literature , University , English , Poem , Beowulf , Books , Poetry , Education
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Garley, Matt, Slade, Benjamin and Marina Terkourafi. “Hwaet! LOL! Common Formulaic Functions in Beowulf.” Proceedings from the Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Association 45 (1): 111-126.
This paper identifies six different formulaic functions that appear both in modern blogs and in Old English poetry. These six are discourse-structuring, filler, gnomic, epithetic, tonic and acronymic. The commonality of these linguistic features is interesting given the amount of time that has passed between the two genres. This shows that the purpose of communication has remained constant, at least in these areas.
Godfrey, J.E. “Beowulf as Martial Epic.” Unpublished dissertation, Texas Tech University, 2011. http://repositories.tdl.org/ttu-ir/handle/2346/19379
This dissertation focuses on the similarities between Beowulf and other epics of war. The conventions of this type of epic are discussed, as well as the rhetorical devices that the martial epic typically encompasses. This is an excellent source for those writing comparison/contrast papers between this epic and those of the ancient Greek cultures.
Goldberg, Mila. “Gods, Men, Monsters: The defamiliarisation of myth in Beowulf and Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Unpublished dissertation. https://ujdigispace.uj.ac.za/handle/10210/4796
The purpose of this dissertation is to show the parallels between shifts in the portraiture of figures of myth, tales and images represent shifts in social ideology. Within Beowulf, all of these images speak to the very nature of mythology. The idioms at work in this mythological epic to make the overall story less familiar to the audience. The end result is a helpful article about each of the many idioms in Beowulf.
Griffiths, Carol. “Using Songs in the Language Classroom.” Proceia 70, pp. 1136-1143. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.01.169
This is a helpful article about the universal benefits of music education. Pointing out that songs are merely poems sent to music, this article seeks to point out the ways in which songs appeal to people at all ages and ability levels. When teaching songs, even at a fairly elementary level, it is possible to start talking about literature at the device level, which is an important part of developing meaningful literacy.
Hill, John M., ed. On the Aesthetics of Beowulf and other old English poems. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010. Print.
This book takes a look at the characteristics that make one elderly Anglo-Saxon poem more appreciated than others. In this book, there are three chapters on Beowulf, each of which focuses on a different aesthetic consideration of the poem. Chapter 11 focuses on the structure of the poem and the ways in which passion and desire inform the structure. Chapters 4 and 9 focus on the ways in which the beauty of poetry is expressed through this epic. All three chapters look at the use of devices as artistic tools.
Hough, Carole. “Beowulf Lines 480b and 531a: Beore Druncen Again.” Neophilologus 88(2): 303- 305.
There has been some controversy as to the meaning of the term druncen in this epic. The traditional interpretation has been one of mild conviviality rather than intoxication. However, its pairing with the word beeor, which usually denotes a stronger drink than beer, suggests that this image from the poem involves more alcohol than one may think.
Jones, Chris. “Where Now the Harp? Listening for the Sounds of Old English Verse, from Beowulf to the Twentieth Century.” Oral Traditions 24 (2): 112-117.
Even in an era when so much is available via print, poetry cannot escape its oral beginnings. This is why songs are still so popular, because poems are meant to be read, if not sung, and heard rather than read. This paper looks at the changes in the use of sound devices (rhyme, onomatopoeia, assonance, consonance and others) over time, from the Anglo-Saxon period to the last century. Implications for interpretation include the difficulty of appreciating Old English from the printed page.
Klautau, Diego. “The Two Eyes of the Dragon: An Analysis of Beowulf from Tolkien’s and Borges’ Perspective.” Ciberteologia 7(33): 42-61.
This article focuses on the possibility of Christian inspiration in the writing of Beowulf. Several of the different instances of symbolism and imagery appear in this article as pieces of evidence that the author had a Christian sensibility, at least with regard to the theology of his day. The article analyzes both devices in general terms as well as in terms of following the main idea.
McCarthy, Conor. Seamus Heaney and Medieval Poetry. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D.S. Brewer, 2008.
This book looks at the different work Seamus Heaney has accomplished with regard to the body of existing medieval poetry, including his seminal translation of Beowulf. Particular attention is paid to the skillful way in which Heaney takes the meaning from the original language and either finds the best translations for devices in the old text or finds new equivalents for those devices.
Mei, Dong. “Analysis on Chinese and British Cultural Differences Embodied in Beowulf’s Allegorical Images.” Journal of Anshun University June 2011. http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-ASSZ201106012.htm
This article focuses on the use of allegory throughout Beowulf. Because this epic is considered representative of British culture, the authors of this article focus on the differences between the particular images chosen for this poem and images that are chosen in similar situations in Chinese epics. The differences are analyzed to show the differences between the two cultures.
Min, Fan. “Study on Construction of Beauty of Poem in Poetry Translation.” Journal of Beijing International Studies University June 2007. http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-JDEW200706002.htm
This article looks at the translation of poetry in a number of situations, as in from one contemporary language to another, as well as in from an older form of a language to a more modern one. Beowulf is one of the poems under consideration in this piece. The work that such contemporary translators as Seamus Heaney have accomplished as far as preserving the beauty of the piece is given significant treatment.
Morris, Damian. Spirituality in Beowulf. Berlin: GRIN Verlag, 2011.
This book looks at the different expressions of spirituality in the epic. Because so many different figurative devices in the book play into the expression of spirituality, this is a rich source for those looking at these sorts of tactics to convey meaning. While there are other sources that claim a more Christian backdrop for the faith expressed in this book, here the source appears to be a more animistic deity.
Noel, Patrizia. “Layers of Versification in Beowulf.” Anglia 127 (2): 238-260.
Many scholars believe that Beowulf shows the very oldest principles of versification in Germanic literature and, as such, serves as an archetype for the German metrics. This article analyzes the different types of versification throughout the epic, looking at them in terms of Old English and an extinct Germanic trend. The combination of these two patterns gives the epic its complex metrical scheme.
Simms, Douglas. “Reconstructing an Oral Tradition: Problems in the Comparative Metrical Analysis of Old English, Old Saxon and Old Norse Alliterative Verse.” Unpublished dissertation, University of Texas, 2003. http://hdl.handle.net/2152/937.
Focusing on the device of alliteration, this paper looks at the extreme difficulty that translators face in preserving the rich alliteration in medieval poetry for modern readers. While preserving the themes and even the symbolic value of much of the verse, remaining true to the actual words, or getting close enough to alliterate, has been very difficult.
Suzuki, Seiichi. The Metre of Old Saxon Poetry: The Remaking of Alliterative Tradition. Rochester, N.Y.: Boydell and Brewer, 2004.
This is another work focusing on ways to preserve the rich devices of the original languages of many of the works written in the Middle Ages. Because it is necessary to find new words for so many expressions in the old texts, maintaining alliteration and even the right meter is a major challenge for translators. This book discusses trends in those areas.
Suzuki, Seiichi. The Metrical Organization of Beowulf: Prototype and Isomorphism. New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1996.
This is a work by Suzuki focusing on the metrical scheme at work in Beowulf. The purpose of this book is to outline the specific scheme at work in the epic. The terms “prototype” and “isomorphism” refer to the general form of the metrical pattern and the changes that the form undergoes during the course of the epic. In Beowulf, it is the changes that Suzuki finds most interesting, as part of a theory of a combined composition.
Tyler, Elizabeth M. Old English Poetics: The Aesthetics of the Familiar in Anglo-Saxon England. York: Boydell and Brewer, 2006.
Whether a poem is old or new, a great deal of its success depends on its ability to render the familiar in a compelling way. This book looks at ways that poems from Old English accomplish this (or fail to do so). There is considerable attention paid to the use of the familiar in Beowulf in a figurative way in order to accomplish rhetorical meaning.
Weiskott, Eric. “Making Beowulf Scream: Exclamation and the Punctuation of Old English Poetry.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 111(1): 25-41.
Beowulf is one of the first examples of writing in the ancestor languages to English that shows the use of what would become the modern exclamation point. This article talks about the different ways that the author of Beowulf brought emotional intensity to the poem. While the exclamation point is certainly an example, syntax and diction also appear in the discussion.
Whissell, Cynthia. “The Flow of Emotion Through Beowulf.” Psychological Reports 99: 835-850.
This article details an analysis of the connotative flow through the entire saga. The words and sequences resulting in pleasantness and activation were tracked to see how they flowed in comparison with the plot. While this might be more designed for a social sciences paper, the study of diction and its relation to connotation also makes this valid for a study of poetry.
Williamson, Craig. Beowulf and Other Old English Poems. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. Print.
Much of this book is the Williamson translation from the original Anglo-Saxon language. For purposes of stuying the devices, Williamson's introductions to Beowulf as well as the other poems that appear in this book talk about the devices that appear in the book. Tom Shippey's foreword places many of these devices in the context of the culture of the day. Reading the annotations alongside the text allows the reader to gain insight into the devices as he reads them.
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Beowulf: An Annotated Bibliography
The epic poem Beowulf has a plethora of literary devices, both characteristic of poetry in general and unique to Anglo- Saxon poetry. These devices enhance the sound of the originally sung story, thus conveying particular meaning and evoking an emotional response from the listening audience.
Caesura, Alliteration, and kenning are among the devices that drive the intensity of Beowulf. One significant poetic device used in Beowulf is alliteration, and it appears in “the wrath of Grendal in which the narrator states, “went up to herot, wondering what the warriors. In that sentence the use of the repetitive “w” shows how curious Grendal is about what the warriors are or would do if he decides to attack them.
Then there is kenning, a colorful, roundabout way of naming people, objects and nature in Beowulf. Then when the narrator stated “in those rock-steep cliffs they quietly ended” was showing how Beowulf and his army landed on the new land, and how the steep cliffs had disappeared, as they were now in search of hunting and killing Grendal, and how the obstacle of getting there was gone.
Lastly there is caesura which permeates Beowulf and his men especially in the line “and glowing in the sun – that most famous of all dwellings” which really shows how both Beowulf and his men were looking and moving so professionally alike, or quite specialized in the job that they will perform, and of all the people that are around, they should be the ones who should be able to pull off the killing of Grendal.
To close it out I would like to reiterate the significant poetic devices which would be the Alliteration; the repetitiveness of a single letter sounding. Kenning; this is a colorful, roundabout way of naming people, objects, and nature. Caesura; this shows a complete pause in a line of poetry.
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