⚡ Queer Theory In Beowulf: The Problem Of Grendels God

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Queer Theory In Beowulf: The Problem Of Grendels God



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Understanding and Evaluating Queer Theory - Daniel Patterson

The danger of the "guest" who may be hostile is not merely a threat recognized by a pun: the source word points to the fragility of all relationships. Meetings between strangers and men in their homes confront both participants with the possibility of the collapse of boundaries between the family and the stranger, at the most obvious level. The host offers food and the guest consumes it. In ancient epics, this ritual of food giving and receiving is recognized as a guarantee of safety, a removal of the always present threat of physical consumption of one by the other in killing. The Odyssey reveals the anxiety over the proper treatment of strangers, when the rest of the unwelcome suitors rebuke Antinous for striking a wanderer.

Gods wander disguised among men in myth, epic, and tragedy, serving as cultural markers of the differences between men and gods: they remind men of their duties, and Odysseus himself occupies the function of the gods in his disguised homecoming to Ithaka. He reinstates the proper relationship between host and guest by testing his servants' loyalty and destroying the suitors, who sought to move from the status of non-related guest to the status of kin by marriage. James Redfield notes that the Iliad opposes aidoV social humanity and nature, especially in battlefield scenes, where men become like animals. The extreme position reached by those who ignore culture is that of Achilles, who becomes a raw meat eater.

Achilles wants to digest Hector Iliad Even in a nominally peaceful meeting, danger can come from either party, and the social rules naming obligations and appropriate behaviors for both parties are a means of subduing that conflict. The rituals of "household ceremonies Hostility to a stranger is both natural and monstrous. Polyphemus, that uncivil monster, did not entertain his guests; he ate them There are ritualized greetings, asking the stranger to "tell of himself, his land, and his ancestry" Odyssey Gifts to the stranger "provide outsiders, who are by nature without status, with that place in society which constitutes an identity " Murnaghan In Greek culture, Zeus is the " XeinioV ", the Protector of strangers," and the choice of supreme god for this role marks the cultural importance of this social dilemma.

There are other terms for describing the relational values between an individual and the members of his group, who are bound together by reciprocal duties. These are moral terms, which encompass different stages in kinship and action. For example, the earliest meaning of the word, philotes which means "friendship" in classical Greek texts, appears to refer to the obligations of a man to a cenoV or guest. Homeric adversaries can agree to a mutual exchange of weapons and gifts, and remain enemies, and the term for their agreement is philotes Illiad 7. Havamal verse 7, Kuhn. Let the wary stranger who looks for refreshment keep silent, with sharp hearing, let him listen with his ears, let him look with his eyes.

So each wise man spies out his way. The text examines the life of a wanderer, who observes men's behavior in company. The essential tone of the axioms seems to be that a wise man keeps his counsel, and that a wise man is always wary of everyone. In Anglo-Saxon culture, Maxims I comments on the fragility of friendship,. Happy is he who prospers in the place of his birth; unfortunate he whom his friends betray. Krapp and Dobbie : The danger is never done away with, however, and it is the position in the relationship in regard to the other that is unstable, rather than the sex of either that is dangerous. That is, of course, Grendel's Mother embodies also the threat of the killing woman, "the monstrous woman", the maternal excess, the avenger, and the imitation man; but she is more than the dark valkyrie female other so frequently found or suspected in medieval texts.

For example, critics of slightly later Norse sagas and pre-romance Germanic literature have noted the destruction wrought by women in the sagas, and have interrogated the motivations and structure of their deeds, and those of the men around them, focusing on the female and the feminine as if they were the same. That is, biology is made critical destiny. For example, for Richard F. Allen , sagas continue and transform the "heroic" spirit of Germanic poetry, and there is an archetypal connection between the "struggle between dark, bloody, engulfing forces from a chaotic realm, forces represented as belonging to a female chthonic side of nature, against powers with a masculine signature, often incorporated into a single hero, a figure of light". Allen goes on to speculate on the persistence of the motif of women whetting to revenge, suggesting that "one explanation is that the figure of the vengeful woman is an outward projection of man's own uneasy awareness of the divided state within him, that it is a mechanism whereby the blame and guilt for his failure to control his passions and his desire for such failure can be shifted to an outside cause".

Thus there is a critical and textual reliance on the monstrous and abject woman who represents the dark desires of men. But this critical view narrows the world of the text, and ignores gender both as inscribed and as a matter of position and function. Grendel's Mother embodies the destruction of the boundaries at the level of identity and ontology. She is only onlicnes , "in the likeness of a woman," she avenges her son as a proper male kinsman would, she is the unnameable descendant or associate of descendants of Cain, she has some vague relationship to eotenas , who appear to be damned, and she is not entirely alien. Grendel's Mother is ambiguously stationed between the human and the monstrous, and it is her fluidity that threatens Beowulf.

Further, if her gender is not biologically determinative of her actions, then those actions cannot be "feminine", and she is a threat to the hero because she offers him the opportunity of destroying those who are like him. In order to demonstrate the many codings of killing and vengeance, I will begin with the facts that most critics have noted: first, violence is a male prerogative and duty, and heroic masculinity is performative, especially in such poems as Maldon and Beowulf. Men not only kill but they also avenge death at the hands of the enemy, without any apparent guilt that they have not managed negotiation or reliance on legal codes of reparations. For example, Beowulf avenges Aeschere's death, and the deaths of all those who have died at the hands of Grendel, and this is the mark of a hero.

Thus, there is no determination to avert the escalation of slaughter, especially of monsters, on the grounds that it is a bloody business, luring men to the end of desire and self in a replication of the female. Killing enemies is laudable, except in the case of the gnawing anxiety over kin-slaughter, which does reveal cultural anxiety over the actual male desire for, and habit of, resorting to violence as the proper response to an offence. The text notably alludes to cases of kin slaughter as anomalies insofar as the wergild system of reparation cannot operate; the father's lament for the unavenged death of one son, at the hands of the other son in a hunting accident , may very well highlight the exacerbations of male blood-line identity within each family, which furnishes a reflection of the same, necessary for the processes of individuation within, and separation from, other kin groups.

Male alliances in Beowulf are initially based on blood kinship between sister's son and sister's brother, and between brothers and that inevitably creates both the fear of, and desire for, phallic identification. Thus we read the text's homosocial discourse, fratricidal strife, and mimetic violence. Hrothgar's advice to Beowulf and the Finnsburh fragment both hint at the loss of self inherent in a violent world. The condemnation of violence is confined to kin-slaughter, and revenge is honorable. The text notes repeatedly the disastrous habit of engaging in kin-slaughter; Beowulf's last speech famously claims, in a tone of elegiac and almost astonished congratulation,.

I am able because of this, sick of mortal wounds, to have joy, because the ruler of men has no cause to charge wicked murder of kinsmen, when my life shall pass from my body. Beowulf did not kill any kin. If men are so violent that any peace among kin is astonishing, then the binarizing of violence as an abject element of the monstrous feminine can no longer be persuasive. The reverse of this approach is the discussion of Grendel's Mother as an imitation of a man, suggesting in an associative way, that this too is a species of monstrous being. Critics have accumulated numerous Anglo-Saxon exegetical examples, where the woman as man trope serves to delimit the human from the demonic, as well as the man from woman.

Lee Edelman's discussion of queer theory usefully describes the process whereby "the homosexual subject is represented as being, even more than inhabiting, a body that always demands to be read, a body on which his "sexuality" is always inscribed". Treesong was the " preeminent criminal of the Oikumene and Beyond " in Vance's fictional universe and the 5th and final Demon Prince to be hunted down and murdered by the avenging Kirth Gersen.

Zada Memar At a young age, Howard became infected by something and he began writing his autobiographical "Book of Dreams". Also at a young age, Howard became a serial murderer. Vance rather dramatically displays two of Treesong's earliest victims: Zada Memar and Nimpy Cleadhoe. They are presented to readers as "marmels", their dead bodies encased in a thin, stone-like layer of impermeable stuff and posed like statues. He has exercised his authority as the "king of thieves" by using a dozen secret identities. When Gersen's persistent sleuthing finally reveals Treesong, the last of the Demon Princes is at the height of his career as a matured criminal.

Treesong's goal is nothing less than to become the first Emperor of the Oikumene and rule over all the human-settled planets of the galaxy. With such grandiose plans, we might think he'd be too busy to fret about his childhood, but Vance can't pass up the opportunity to show -in humorous detail- what happens when Treesong attends his 25th high school reunion.

Poised to become the First Emperor of the human universe, Treesong returns to his home planet in order to take revenge on his old "school chums" in Gladbetook. Woe to those who long ago bullied and tormented him. As Treesong says, " The book describes the colors of Treesong's soul. Vance depicts Treesong as being the living vehicle for a cadre of mysterious reincarnated "paladins". These wandering souls animate Treesong much like a humanoid puppet, endowing Howard with a dramatic and magical multiple-personality disorder.

When under stress, Treesong can simultaneously speak in multiple overlapping voices, revealing the presence of the excited paladins as they fail to wait their turns to speak. In the end, the paladins abandon Treesong's body just before his death. Howard has finally been exorcised of his disease, which in a lesser man might only have led to a writing career, not mass murder. However, Bodissey Unspiek's words reach us through snippets that Vance has selected and taken from the baron's sprawling master work, Life.

The good baron even gets his own Wikipedia page. Particularly amusing is the start of Chapter 10 in The Killing Machine. Our hero, Gersen, has just reached the primitive planet Thamber. Vance leads us into Gersen's coming travails with a long quote from Baron Bodissey's six volume opus, Life , lamenting the futility of mere book learning. It ends with No comments: Email This BlogThis! Labels: disease , fantasy , fiction writing , humor , Isaac Asimov , Jack Vance , mystery , science fiction. Nov 27, The Metafoundation. Stalagmites and Stalactites! About the same time, Star Trek arrived on TV.

However, she still says that marriage is good because there are men who are kind and love each other thus, women should be grateful. In the other reading, Lancelot by Chretien de Troys is an Arthurian poem about the story of Lancelot expressing knightly rightness to free the Queen from Melegant. Just as disturbing is the readiness by which society has accepted the validity of homosexual marriage. In living memory its associated practice was abhorrent in the eyes of decent citizens; whereas nowadays its normalization and full social acceptance is a fait accompli. We feel like asking our fellow citizens what Paul asked the Galatians: who has bewitched you? So what happens to any society that loses its moral compass?

It is foolish to assume that the public and political leaders will ultimately know when to put the brakes on; that they are bound to say at some stage: this far and no further. Beowulf, a strong warrior from the tribe of the Geats, being a part of the gay community would be hard to believe. Although it is difficult to consider, applying queer theory to Beowulf is simple when the epic poem demonstrates various situations as to apply queer theory. In the work Beowulf, the anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet utilizes coded language, paradigms of hetero-culture, and unsuccessful hetero-normativity to demonstrate how the fight between Grendel 's Mother and Beowulf caused Beowulf to be uncomfortable, how the heterosexual married men had a lot of failures compared to the never married Beowulf.

During one scene, the poet used "coded" language in a hetero culture to explore the heroism of the queer warrior. The coded language is seen between Beowulf and Grendel 's Mother. The coded language during this scene projects a sexual tension and an uneasiness that Beowulf went through. In the article, The Structural Unity of Beowulf: The Problem of Grendel 's Mother by Jane Nitzsche, she discusses "the contrast of the mock-sensual embracing and grasping" of Beowulf 's other two battles between Grendel and the dragon compared to only Grendel 's Mother Nitzsche Grendel 's Mother demonstrates the sexual tension in three different ways: first, the emphasis upon clutching, grasping, and embracing while they fight; second, the contest for a dominant position astride the other; and third, the use of fingers, knife, or sword to penetrate clothing or the body, the latter.

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