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Epic of Beowulf Essay - Dating and Locating the Composition of Beowulf

analytical Essay
931 words
931 words
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Dating and Locating the Composition of Beowulf

Dating and locating the composition of Beowulf is impossible to do with precision at this time because we do not have enough information about the poem’s specific historical context and because the poem is not constructed in such a consistently symbolic way to warrant a single allegorical-historical interpretation..

Estimates of the date of the poem’s composition “range from 340 to 1025, with ca. 515-530 and 1000 being almost universally acknowledged as the possible extremes” (Bjork 13). Current thinking is balanced between roughly this view and the late ninth to early tenth centuries. “critics generally agree upon an early period, ranging from the late seventh to the early ninth century (Greenfield 66). The Cambridge History of English and American Literature states in v1, ch3, s3,n11: “. . . most of the historical events mentioned in Beowulf are to be dated within the first three decades of the sixth century.”

One clue to dating the composition was thought to lie in the use of the word merewioingas (translated by some scholars as Merovingian), a word which is used only in this poem and in no other Old English poetry or prose. In 752 the Merovingian dynasty ended, but poetic reference to it could have been added later – so this is no real help. “. . . the composition of the poem, thich is usually thought to have taken place no later than the eighth century” (Stanley 4).

Scholars now consider that there were only five times and places possessing the power and culture that could have supported the production of such a sophisticated work of art as Beowulf: (1) seventh century east Anglia (the age of Sutton Hoo); (2) late seventh to earl...

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...ert Bjork and John D. Niles. Lincoln, Nebraska: Uiversity of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Fulk, R.D.. “Textual Criticism.” In A Beowulf Handbook, edited by Robert Bjork and John D. Niles. Lincoln, Nebraska: Uiversity of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Greenfield, Stanley B. “Nature and Quality of Old English Poetry.” In Beowulf: The Donaldson Translation, edited by Joseph F. Tuso. New York, W.W.Norton and Co.: 1975.

Stanley, E.G.. “Beowulf.” In The Beowulf Reader, edited by Peter S. Baker. New York: Garland Publishing, 2000.

Thompson, Stephen P. “The Beowulf poet and His World.” In Readings on Beowulf, edited by Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998.

Ward & Trent, et al. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907–21; New York: Bartleby.com, 2000

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that dating and locating the composition of beowulf is impossible to do with precision because we do not have enough information about the poem's specific historical context and because it is not constructed in such a consistently symbolic way.
  • Explains that the word merewioingas was used only in this poem and in no other old english poetry or prose. the merovingian dynasty ended in 752, but poetic reference to it could have been added later.
  • Explains that scholars now consider that only five times and places possessing the power and culture that could have supported the production of such a sophisticated work of art as beowulf: (1) seventh century east anglia; (2) late seventh to early eighth century northumbria
  • Explains that some scholars have tried to locate its place of origin, but no clear consensus has emerged. they argue for a provenance in northumbria because of similarity of word forms in the poem and the local monuments.
  • Analyzes how the poem reflects periods of cultural or literary transition. the peculiar mix of christian and pagan ideas points to the late seventh to late eighth centuries with the gradual anglo-saxon conversion to christianity.
  • Explains that the transition from the german to the roman idea of kingship took place in the late eighth century, and this is the basis for dating the poem at that time.
  • Explains that some date the composition between caedmon's oral poetry and cynewulf, considering the use of figures and tropes, in the second half of the eighth century.
  • Explains how various researchers used literary history to place beowulfby in relation to other poems, dating it from about 700 as the earliest to tenth century as latest.
  • Analyzes the use of geneologies to date and place the poem in locations of mercia, wessex, or east anglia, and states that it is at least as old as any other considerable piece of old english poetry in existence.
  • Opines that the precise dating and placing of the composition of beowulf must be left to future generations of archaeologists, historians, critics and literati.
  • Explains that bjork and obermeier's a beowulf handbook are published by uiversity of nebraska press and fulk, r.d.
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