This critical essay, written by Joan Acocella, an American journalist and book c ritic for New York, who has written many books regarding dance, literature, and psych ology, though mentioning heavily the perfection that is Tolkien’s ‘Beowulf and the contempl ation of as to why he never published his translation of ‘Beowulf’, also mentions the fact that Be wulf was unrelatable to the reader and is also lacking in psychology, She mentions at o ne point that there went into such descriptive detail about an almost impossibly large and wonde rful ship that Beowulf sailed on to get to their homeland, using such words as, “yet the boat fairly flies, gathering a necklace of sea foam. Then, suddenly, the men see the cliffs of th eir homeland, and, mirroring the eagerness, the boat lands in five short words”. Acocella calls this “speed incarnate”. She also touches on Beowulf’s “unselfconsciousness” to the reader that tended to ake the world described in the story, that much more wonderful, and vivid. Acocella mentions that there are many portrayals of light or dark and references the description s of Hearot. She uses the section that gives detail to the existence of the “monster Grendel.
A mon Ster who hates music and “for twelve years he has been coming to Hearot after dark to prey on the Danish knights”, then continues on to quote the poet rendition of one of the visits. La ter in the essay, Acocella mentions the translation works of Seamus Heaney and John Gardner , and even Tolkien, how they all seem to portray Grendel as more boy than monster. She, too, se ems to believe this, saying “one reason Grendel seems childlike is that he has a mother’. Making a point. Beowulf was orphaned, this great hero, he was, and considered a manGrendel, though , living with a mother, and after having gone home to die, his “mother goes on a rampage”.
Acocella makes the point that Grendel’s mother “clearly loved her son”, because, even being a tre acherous monster, a beast of beneath, waits for Beowulf after he dives in to follow Grendel, with a posse of sea monsters. One point she makes, which can only agree with, in the way that s he puts it, is “he aves [the sword] through the air, piercing the monster’s throat and breaking her neck bone. This is more horrid than Beowulfs removal of Grendel’s arm and shoulder, or, at least, it feels more painful”. She stated this, because Beowulf had just killed a woman, and a mother. Which brings her back to a point she had mention about Beowulf being somewhat u nrelatable.
The essay all around makes wonderful points, summarizing and critiquing the stor y very well, each battle, and her own personal opinions, to which, agree. I admire the way she looked at Beowulf as more of a distant hero with superhuman strength. I also admire the way sh e used a knowledge of psychology to point out notsosubtle, but easily overlooked, ways that Beow ulf can be just as much of a villain as he was a hero. It helps me see the poem not just through the eyes of someone reading it, cheering on Beowulf wholeheartedly, but having a more open min d. I would recommend this to anyone who wishes to see a broader view on the roles of t he characters, but also anyone interested in learning a bit more about Tolkien. Bodek, Richard. “Beowulf. Explicator 62. 3 (2004): 130132. Academic Search Complete . web. 18 Nov. 2014. Richard Bodek, a PhD graduate from the University of Michigan, and a BA fro m The Johns Hopkins University, working on staff at the College of Charleston is a pu blished author, having written ‘Proletarian Performance in Weimar Berlin: Agitprop, Chorus, a nd Brecht, and co written The Fruits of Exile: Central European Intellectual Immigration to A merica in the Age of Fascism’ and many articles as well, brings up the long lived debate of ‘Whet her Beowulf is a Christian poem with pagan undertones or a pagan poem with Christian overla Y’. He mentions that another critic, F. A.
Blackburn seems to think that Beowulf is a “heathen p em; that its materials are drawn from tales composed before the conversion of the Angle s and Saxons to Christianity” and is not Christian at all, having been originally written in a text with no Christian reflections found in the more modern day translation. Though Bodek brings u p that Tolkien, himself, believes that Beowulf is indeed a Christian poem, though reflects on ” the preChristian past”. He carries on to mention how popular Tolkien’s argument is, and offers the evidence of Hrothgar’s gift of the holy sword to Beowulf, and Beowulfs intention to only d o the work of God with his aid as straightforward.
Bodek begins to mention the infusion oft raditional values, regarding Hrothgar, and companionship without violence. Throughout the es say, multiple points are made showing the almost confusing bond between pagan and Christian v alues in Beowulf, at least the translation we know, that only lead me to believe that Beowulf is a p agan poem with Christian overlay. Reading this essay only further instilled that in me, seeing a s some Of the references to doing God’s work, and only doing work for the Lord, are placed, in the poem, in places think don’t fit with the overall moral of the storythe over all big hero ontra, slaying dragons, rescuing Kings, and getting all this gold for doing so.
One of honor, o ne of violenceone that doesn’t match up with traditional Christian publications. wo uld definitely recommend this to people who are also having that debate with themselves o r others on the religious tone of Beowulfwhether pagan or Christian. Asma, Stephen T. “Never Mind Grendel. Can Beowulf Conquer the 21 stCentur y Guilt Trip? ” The Chronicle of Higher Education 54. 15 (2007). Biography in Context . Web. 19 Nov. 2014. Stephen T. Asma, a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago, is n t only a published author, but is working on a book for the Oxford University Press. H e states, in the essay, an overall summary of Beowulf, to which he refers to as “the mortal sin , according to J. R. R.
Tolkien” though goes on to expertly point out the beauty of the work tha t Tolkien translated, the complexity of the plot, and even states that he [Asma] believes that “Many of its explicit statements of power, violence, and gender relations are forbidden to our more gentle, egalitarian, and diplomatic society’. He goes on to say that Beowulf is undoub tedly a man’s Story. It appeals to the testosterone pumping, spine tingling, adrenaline racin g adventures of being a Scandinavian hero in preChristian times. Referencing the modern mo vie, he points out the key differences in how theyve changed Beowulf into a softer, more adapt able version instead of a hard hitting gut busting violent, and bloody raging battle betwee n deadly monsters. Beowulf was a ruthless monster killer”one of the great monsterkillers of all ti me”.
He points out that even though we live in a society washed by moralistic values of Christ ianity, the prideful heroic feel Of such films as 300 the HBO series Rome and even the story Beowulf, still somehow end up beingnot only a hitbut incredibly memorable and heart raci ng. He says that it plays on our more barbaric instincts, and adding in the later Christian value s through further translation hasnt been effective enough to cover it up, especially since the he roicpride in Beowulf is a large nono in the Bible. Asma states that Beowulf is “deeply satisf Ying for many people”, and I’d have to agree with him. Though littered with, seemingly rando m, placements of praises to God, I find that Beowulf is still an adrenalinelaced epic tale that will ever cease to amaze, no matter how much of the original story they seem to strip away to r eplace with more socially correct, moralistic values.
I would recommend this to a more man ori ented audience who have an appreciation for what Beowulf might have been before Christianwash ing translations of the poem was released. Woolf, Henry Bosley. “On the Characterization of Beowulf. ” ELH 15. 2 (1 web. Henry Bosely Woolf, though unable to find much about him on the internet, t his article or work of his was published by The Johns Hopkins university Press in June of 1 9 48. Woolf, by irst calling Beowulf a work Of art, continues by saying the poet has “penetrati ng psychological gifts”, in use of structure and meaning. He says that scholars who study the ar tistic qualities of Beowulf still have a ways to go, in that it is limitless. Woolf believes that Beow ulf is expertly characterized, and that this fact is commonly discarded, or not even seen at al l. After the introd uctory lines that summarize early Danish history, the poet proceeds to an account of the building of the great hall Heorot[… ]Though the point should not be pressed to o far, the emphasis to the superiority of Heorot to other halls[… is an indirect means of charac izing Beowulf’. Though, I may not be reading this correctly, it sounded to me that he is say through the detail description and evocation of such great power lays out the foundation for ch only a great hero can step itinadvertently adding characteristics to a not yet introduced char, er. To that, agree. When you lay out such a grand setting, a scene fit to only that of a hero sut as Beowulf, he must be great.
Woolf later states that the repeated mentioning of Beowulf human strength only furthers the fact that the author couldn’t have built him up more, alon with his “positively eligious side” which portrays Beowulf as a “man possessing various Christ virtues”. To that, unfortunately, I had to disagree. think he should have taken in the fact thi eowulf includes significantly more pagan valuesviolence, pride, matter over mindrather tha he peaceful way Christian’s are supposed to be portrayeda gentle, peaceful victory. As the e y continues, he talks about Beowulfs good deeds, his looks, the fame of the Danes and ho attributed to Beowulfs fame as well, referencing how even the coastguard and the hera ontributing to this fame.