Daniel C. Remein
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Translative comparative poetics
in The heat of Beowulf
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This introduction constructs a disciplinary context in which to ask how Robin Blaser’s and Jack Spicer’s encounter with Beowulf might furnish a series of critical frames for reading the Old English poem anew. Introducing the reader to Blaser’s and Spicer’s poetics and their general medievalism in the context of the mid-century ‘Berkeley Renaissance’, the Introduction surveys their study of Beowulf under Arthur G. Brodeur and Blaser’s description of his encounter with the ‘heat’ of that poem. Blaser’s and Spicer’s study of Beowulf are positioned with respect to Brodeur’s classroom, their contemporaneous study under historian Ernst Kantorowicz, and their later avant-garde poetics. The Introduction then turns to consider a broader disciplinary context for the project of reading Blaser’s and Spicer’s avant-garde poetics comparatively with Beowulf, asking how to stage an encounter of Old English studies and twentieth-century and contemporary poetics. An examination of critical conversations about translations of Beowulf alongside the translation theory of Brazilian modernist Haroldo de Campos and an analysis of the ‘hypercanonicity’ of Beowulf points to the need to attend more fastidiously to the inherently translative functions of Beowulf criticism and their implicit relationship to what Charles Bernstein calls ‘official verse culture’. The Introduction calls for a concept of translative comparative poetics, arguing that to allow modern and contemporary poetics to shape how we attempt to comprehend Beowulf, we need to accord just as much historicity to ‘modern and contemporary’ poetics as a medievalist would demand for the past.

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