The heat of Beowulf

Author:
Daniel C. Remein
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The heat of Beowulf investigates twentieth-century poets Jack Spicer’s and Robin Blaser’s encounter with Beowulf in order to contextualize their poetics as a comparative horizon by which to understand the aesthetics of the Old English poem anew. The book examines Blaser’s and Spicer’s translations and study of the poem under philologist Arthur G. Brodeur within the context of their avant-garde literary world to generate a series of comparative critical frames for describing the non-representational functions of the aesthetics of Beowulf. After tracing the genealogies of mid-century critical practice and literary modernism that intersect in Blaser’s and Spicer’s engagement with Beowulf, the book examines Robin Blaser’s account of the ‘heat’ of Beowulf in Brodeur’s classroom as a formative moment within his poetics and articulates an approach to non-representational early medieval aesthetics that draws variously on the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Mary Carruthers’ accounts of medieval rhetoric, medieval sensology, disability studies, and translation theory. The book then argues that the multisensory and even synesthetic world of Beowulf requires a process of ecopoetical, phenomenological translation to become intelligible to vulnerable human corporeality. From here, the book reboots Brodeur’s interest in Beowulf’s aesthetics in a series of chapters on compound diction, variation, and narrative structure. Each of these chapters explores the capacity of the poem’s perceptual process to assist and to impair the human sensorium, offering an account of the activity of the poem as a multisensory phenomenological aesthetics—not conceived of as figure, but as non-representational activity and process.

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