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From «Beowulf» to Caxton

Studies in Medieval Languages and Literature, Texts and Manuscripts


Edited By Tomonori Matsushita, A.V.C. Schmidt and David J. Wallace

Senshu University has hosted many international conferences on medieval English literature – primarily on Geoffrey Chaucer and William Langland – as well as in the related fields of Old Germanic, medieval French and Renaissance Italian literature. These international collaborations inform and contribute to the present volume, which addresses the heritage bequeathed to medieval English language and literature by the classical world.
This volume explores the development of medieval English literature in light of contact with Germanic and Old Norse cultures, on the one hand, and Romance languages, on the other. The book includes a comparative study of Beowulf in the Germanic context, discusses aspects of Piers Plowman and its tradition, and offers philological approaches to Chaucer (especially his Troilus and Criseyde). The articles assembled here collectively suggest how the torches of classical learning were carried from continental Europe to illuminate the pages of medieval English literature.


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Graham D. Caie - 1. A Case of Double Vision: Denmark in Beowulf and Beowulf in England -9


Graham D. Caie 1 A Case of Double Vision: Denmark in Beowulf and Beowulf in England 1.0. Introduction A study of the reception of any literary work in a specific period tells us much about the culture and attitudes of that period. Why is an author or a literary period popular in one age and not another? One might ask why the English poet who composed Beowulf chose a Danish hero when his country was besieged by the Danes or why this English epic was so popular in early nineteenth-century Denmark which was at war with England. Beowulf has recently been brought to public attention by the excel- lent translation by Seamus Heaney, who for decades has had a particu- lar interest in Denmark and its ancient history.1 He sees parallels in the myths and beliefs of the early peoples of Denmark and Ireland, and in the Introduction to this work he states that using choice Irish words in translation is ‘one way for an Irish poet to come to terms with the complex history of conquest and colony, absorption and resistance, integrity and antagonism’.2 For him, then, Beowulf is not simply a distant relic, dif ficult to access through remote language and customs, but a living work that informs our own times. Heaney has done much to dispel the myth that this work is little more than an obstacle at the door of English Literature studies at universities, a monster to be vanquished before the delights of accessible post-medieval...

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