Daniel C. Remein
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‘Heat’, early medieval aesthetics, and multisensory complexion in Beowulf
in The heat of Beowulf
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This chapter asks what precisely Blaser meant in referring to the ‘heat’ of Beowulf, and what this comprehends about early medieval aesthetics. Contextualizing heat within Blaser’s poetics, heat emerges as a term of a phenomenologically translative poetics that phrases the aesthetic as ‘perception’, and frames poesis as a primarily perceptual, corporeal process. Calibrating this critical lexicon to early medieval concepts of aesthetics, the chapter constellates Blaser’s engagement with the Old English poem The dream of the rood with the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, critical sensology, early medieval discourses of the senses, and Mary Carruthers’ analysis of rhetoric and multisensory complexion in medieval aesthetics. The chapter also introduces the concept of ‘ductus’, or the paths that lead a reader through the experience of the text, and nuances all these discourses with perspectives from medieval disability studies and a critique of the assumed dominance of the visual in early medieval aesthetics, especially in the sensology of the Fuller Brooch. Phrased as a question about perception, Blaser’s ‘heat’ gestures to the ecopoetical functions of aesthetics and the ways that sensory impairments—especially visual impairments in early medieval England—might shape how we understand aesthetics within western medieval hierarchies of the senses. The chapter concludes by turning this analysis on a reading of multisensoriality in Beowulf, arguing that the poem represents a world whose multisensoriality and synesthesia would require the kind of phenomenological translation performed by Blaser’s ‘heat’ to render it sensible for the vulnerable corporeality of the human sensorium.

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