TitleTrauma and Transcience in Old English Poetry and Its Influence
Date/TimeWednesday 7 July 2021: 16.30-18.00
OrganiserIMC Programming Committee
Moderator/ChairElma Brenner, Wellcome Library, London
Paper 1302-a The Privilege of History and Hero-Making in Beowulf
(Language: English)
Kortney Stern, Department of English, Indiana University, Bloomington
Index Terms: Folk Studies; Gender Studies; Genealogy and Prosopography; Language and Literature - Old English
Paper 1302-b The Wanderer and Mental Wounds: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Early English Culture
(Language: English)
Chad White, Department of History, University of Louisville, Kentucky
Index Terms: Gender Studies; Language and Literature - Old English; Military History; Social History
Paper 1302-c Enta geweorc, the Work of the Giants: Tolkien, The Ruin, and Ruins from Early Medieval England
(Language: English)
Gesner Las Casas Brito Filho, Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas, Universidade Estadual de Campinas
Index Terms: Architecture - General; Language and Literature - Old English; Manuscripts and Palaeography; Medievalism and Antiquarianism
AbstractPaper -a:
While Beowulf is certainly a poem about heroic feats and battle victories, it is also a narrative about anxieties surrounding the production of story and heroes. Striving for the unattainable role of hero, Beowulf fails, and in his failure, I argue, he produces a tale of trauma. Beowulf's glorified account of silencing and exaggerated violence only becomes visible by separating Grendel's Mother from her gender as woman and her role as mother. No longer solely a vehicle for reproduction, we can clearly see that Beowulf draws attention to Grendel's Mother's maternity in order to veil his own problematic role as producer. Beowulf desires to have sole control of the text, to be the sole creator, so, I claim, he eradicates the only opposition in his path, Grendel's Mother. Upon her death, Beowulf utilizes his power as story teller to create his final 'heroic' narrative, a narrative that departs from the narrator's version of the evenly matched fight between Beowulf and Grendel's Mother. In Beowulf's account to Hrothgar, he chooses to silence Grendel's Mother by removing her body and her voice from his narration. In his second retelling, Beowulf describes a gruesome beheading to Hygelac, which never took place. While each version of Beowulf's tale could be remembered as heroic, this paper aims to draw attention to these moments of curated heroism in order to highlight the ways in which Beowulf exposes the dangers and fundamentally fraught nature of storytelling and the heroes storytellers produce.

Paper -b:
In the Old English elegy, The Wanderer, the protagonist roams a storm-battered seashore, alone and bereft of his liege lord, warband, and male companionship. From the descriptions of harsh weather to the conclusion the character explores Anglo-Saxon idealized masculinity, lordship in Early English Society, and experiences survivor's guilt after a battle. I argue that The Wanderer is an account of the psychological trauma experienced by the subject of the poem akin to what modern soldiers experience today branded as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I posit that this poem could have been used as a counseling tool or an allegorical tale to help men in a society at near-constant warfare in the Viking Age.

Paper -c:
J. R. R. Tolkien is known today as one of the most celebrated author of a genre called medieval fantasy. His books, as Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit are influential in all spheres of pop culture. However, in addition, Tolkien had a successful career as an academic, philologist and Anglo-Saxonist. The aim of this work is to analyse how the ruins (ancient Roman constructions) and ruin (the idea of a civilisation decaying), elements present in the art and literature of Anglo-Saxon England, were interpreted and remodelled by Tolkien in his fantasy writing and in his work as an academic.