The Heroic Age

Issue 5

Summer/Autumn 2001

Gæst, gender, and kin in Beowulf:

Consumption of the Boundaries

Notes and Bibliography



1. Damico(1984) on the term ides and aglaecwif. Also Menzer (1996) andTaylor(1996).

2. All Beowulf citations are from Klaeber.

3. Alfano (1992) discusses instances of gæst and gist in the poem.

4. Dictionary references are to Simpson and Weiner, eds. Oxford English Dictionary; Lewis and Short, eds. A Latin Dictionary; Liddell and Jones, eds., A Greek-English Lexicon and Supplement; and Calvin Watkins, Ed. (1969)The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

5. On theories of woman as the archaic feminine, see Kristeva (1982).

6. Allen (1971: 132).

7.Overing 1990:81, Lees (1994), reviews the specifically gendered views of the text.

8.Wilson 1996:13

9. Earl 1979, Earl 1983, Hill 1989.

10.Richardson1997, Renoir1962.


12. Murnaghan 1987 on the shifting and ironic roles of guests and hosts in the Odyssey. Women provide baths and new clothing to guests, in a peaceful, domestic version of male interrogation and reply between guest and host. For an analysis of the literary reflexes of cultural tensions in Homeric texts, see Redfield 1975. Finley (1954) opened the discussion of Homeric texts and the custom of potlatch, drawing on Marcel Mauss' (1925) analysis in The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. For a more recent critical view, see Herman 1987.

13. Durrenberger 1992: chapter 5, "Exchange." Miller's (1990:4) is the most comprehensive discussion of feud in legal and economic terms. For a discussion of the differences between blood and marriage relationships in the feud process, see Miller, "The Bonds of Kinship," chapter 5. Miller focuses on an anthropological/economic view of the legal and literary evidence for responsibilities to blood and affines. For a more general overview of kinship, see the collection of essays in Palsson and Durrenberger 1989. Mary Douglas' ideas in 'Purity and Danger' are suggestive here, but do not fall within the scope of this article. See Davies and Fouracre (1986:239-40) which notes that "even in Iceland, despite the near absence of any coercive role for legal institutions at all, and despite a society probably more oriented towards interpersonal violence...people tended to make peace through the courts in the end"; See also Byock (1982:1), for the fact that "feud stands at the core of the narrative, and its operation reaches into the heart of Icelandic society. The dominant concern of this society -- to channel violence into accepted patterns of feud and to regulate conflict -- is reflected in saga narrative". For legal homogeneity and complexity in Iceland, see Dennis,Foote, and Perkins 1980.

14. For a constructionist series of views, see . Halperin, Winkler, and Froma Zeitlin 1990, Clover (1993), Partner (1993). Heinrichs(1986:110-140), Linke (1992: 265-288), and Jochens (1996).

15.Orchard 1995: 30-7.

16.Edelman 1994:10.

17.Burger 1998: 117-30, 121.

18.As many critics have noted, the use of psychoanalytic theory as a means of exploring medieval texts is problematic. However, the discourse of language and desire offered by Lacan and Kristeva are productive of insights, especially in the realm of gender and power. As Julia Kristeva (1980) notes, women, loss, and origin are associated concepts.

19.Carlson 1967.

20. Wrenn and Bolton 1988.


22.Mellinkoff 1979 and 1981.

23.Butler (1993: 136) notes that "gender identity and its signs are performative in the sense that the essence or identity that they otherwise purport to express are fabrications manufactured through corporal signs and other discursive means. That the gendered body is performative suggests that it has no ontological status apart from the various acts which constitute its reality.

24. I borrow the term from Searle 1988.


Alfano, Christine. (1992). "The Issue of Feminine Monstrosity: A Reevaluation of Grendel's Mother." Comitatus 23: 1-16.

Allen, Richard F. (1971). Fire and Iron: Critical Approaches to Njals Saga. University of Pittsburgh Press.

Butler, Judith. (1993). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.

Burger, Glenn. (1998). "Doing What Comes Naturally,"pp. 117-130 in Masculinities in Chaucer: Approaches to Maleness in the Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde. ed. Peter G. Beidler Cambridge: Brewer.

Byock, Jesse L. (1982). Feud in the Icelandic Saga. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Carlson, Signe M. (1967). "The Monsters of Beowulf: Creations of Literary Scholars." Journal of American Folklore 80: 357-64.

Clover, Carol. (1993). "Regardless of Sex: Men, Women, and Power in Early Northern Europe." Speculum 68: 363-87.

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. (1999). Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, and the Middle Ages. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Damico, Helen. (1984). Beowulf s Wealtheow and the Valkyrie Tradition. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Davies, Wendy and Paul Fouracre, eds. (1986). The Settlement of Disputes in Early Medieval Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dennis, A. Foote, P. and Perkins, R. eds. (1980). Laws of Early Iceland:Grágás 1. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

Dobbie, Elliot Van Kirk (1968, reprint) Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records. Volume VI. Columbia University Press.

Durrenberger, Paul. (1992). The Dynamics of Medieval Iceland. Iowa: University of Iowa Press.

Earl, James W. (1979). "The Necessity of Evil in Beowulf ." South Atlantic Bulletin 44: 81-98.

Earl, James W. (1983). "The Role of the Men's Hall in the Development of the Anglo-Saxon Superego." Psychiatry 46:139-60;

Edelman, Lee. (1994). Homographesis: Essays in Gay Literary and Cultural Theory. New York: Routledge.

Finley, M. I. (1954). The World of Odysseus. New York.

Hala, James. (1998) "The Parturition of Poetry and the Birthing of Culture: the Ides Aglaecwif and Beowulf." Exemplaria 10: 29-50.

Halperin, David M., Winkler, John J., and Froma Zeitlin, eds. (1990). Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Heinrichs, Anne. (1986). "Annat er várt eðli: The Type of the Prepatriarchal Woman in Old Norse Literature," pp. 110-140 in Eds. Lönnroth and Weber, Structure and Meaning in Old Norse Literature: New Approaches to Textual Analysis and Literary Criticism. Odense: Odense University Press.

Herman, G. (1987). Ritualized Friendship and the Greek City. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hill, John M. (1989). "Revenge and Superego Mastery in Beowulf." Assays 5: 3-36.

Jochens, Jenny. (1996). Old Norse Images of Women. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Klaeber, F. (1950). Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg. 3rd edition. Massachusetts: Heath and Co.

Kuhn, Hans. Ed. (1962) Edda. Heidelberg: Carl Winter.

Krapp, George Philip and Elliot Van Kirk Dobbie, Eds. (1966) The Exeter Book. New York: Columbia University Press. (Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records Volume III)

Kristeva, Julia. (1982). Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia University Press.

Kristeva, Julia. (1980). "Motherhood According to Giovanni Bellini." pp. 237-70 in Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. trans. Leon Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lees, Clair. (1994). "Men and Beowul." in Medieval and Masculinities. ed. Lees. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Lewis, Charleton T. and Charles Short, Eds. (1969) A Latin Dictionary. Oxford.

Liddel, Henry G. and Robert Scott.(1968) A Greek-English Lexicon and Supplemnent.Oxford: Clarendon.

Linke, Uli. (1992). "The Theft of Blood, the Birth of Men: Cultural Constructions of Gender in Medieval Iceland," pp. 265-288 in From Sagas to Society: Comparative Approaches to Early Iceland .ed. Gisli Palsson. Enfield Lock: Hisarlik Press.

Mauss, Marcel. (1925). The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. London.

Mellinkoff, R. (1979). "Cain's Monstrous Progeny in Beowulf: Part 1, Noachic Tradition." Anglo-Saxon England 8: 143-62.

Mellinkoff, R. (1981). "Cain's Monstrous Progeny in Beowulf: Part II, Post-Diluvian Survival." Anglo-Saxon England 9:83-97.

Menzer, Melinda J. (1996). "Aglæcwif: Beowulf (1259a): Implications for -wif Compounds, Grendel's Mother, and Other Aglæcan." English Language Notes 34: 1-6.

Miller, J.Hillis. (1979). "The Critic as Host," pp. 217-53 in Deconstuction and Criticism. ed. H. Bloom. New York: Seabury (Continuum) Press.

Miller, William Ian. (1990). Bloodtaking and Peacemaking; Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Murnaghan, Sheila. (1987). Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Orchard, Andy. (1995). Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf. Manuscript Cambridge: Brewer, 30-7.

Overing, Gillian R. (1990). Language, Sign and Gender in Beowulf. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Palsson, Gisli and E. Paul Durrenberger, eds. (1989). The Anthopology of Iceland. Iowa: University of Iowa Press.

Partner, Nancy. (1993). "No Bodies, No Sex." Speculum 68: 117-42.

Redfield, James. (1975). Nature and Culture in the Iliad. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Renoir, Alain. (1962). "Point of View and Design for Terror in Beowulf." Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 63: 154-67.

Richardson, Peter. (1997). "Point of View and Identification in Beowulf." Neophilologus 81: 289-98

Searle, Eleanor. (1988). Predatory Kinship and the Creation of \Norman Power, 840-1066. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Simpson, J.A. and E.S. Weiner. Eds. (1989) Oxford English Dictionary. Second Editon. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Vol. 1-20.

Taylor, Keith P. (1996). "Beowulf 1259a: The Inherent Nobility of Grendel's Mother." English Language Notes 34: 13-25.

Watkins, Calvin. Ed. (1969) American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots. Appendix to American Heritage Dictionary. William Morris, Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Wilson, Eric. (1996). "The Blood Wrought Peace: A Girardian Reading of Beowulf." English Language Notes 34: 7-30.

Wrenn, C. L. and W. F. Bolton. (1988). Beowulf. Exeter: University of Exeter Press.



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Copyright © Carolyn Anderson, 2001-2. All rights reserved.

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