Performance in Beowulf and other Old English Poems
Title Details

278 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

4 b/w. illus

Series: Anglo-Saxon Studies

Series Vol. Number: 45

Imprint: D.S.Brewer

Performance in Beowulf and other Old English Poems

by Steven J.A. Breeze

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
An examination of the depiction and representation of performative acts in Old English texts.
Acts of performance, such as music, storytelling, and poetry recital, have made significant contributions to the rediscovery and widening popularity of Old English poetry. However, while these performances capture the imagination, they also influence an audience's view of the world of the original poems, even to propagating certain assumptions, particularly those to do with performance practices. By stripping away these assumptions, this book aims to uncover the ways in which representations of performance in Old English poetry are intimately associated with poetic production and fundamental cultural concerns. Through an examination of Beowulf, diverse wisdom poems, and the "artist" poems Deor and Widsith, it proposes that poets constructed an imaginary domain of "poetic performance", which negotiated tensions between early medieval creativity and core social beliefs. It also shows how the poems' relationship with oral methods of composition and circulation weakened in later medieval poetry as both language and poetic form altered. Overall, the book explores what depictions of performance within these texts can tell us about early medieval conceptualisations, processes, and practices, in the poetic imagination and in wider culture. Through an analysis of Eddic poetry and Laȝamon's Brut, it also highlights a tradition of "poetic performance" in English poetics.
Introduction: Realising the Intangible
1 Instruments of the Poet: Exploiting the Old English Lexis
2 Multiformity and the Orality of Associative, Architectonic Poetics
3 Providence and Pleasure: Performance as Symbol
4 Storytelling in Beowulf and Meta-storytelling in Andreas
5 Wisdom and Power: Philosophies of Performance
6 Theme Songs: An English Tradition of Performance?
7 The Lure of the Lyre: Interpretation, Reenactment, and the Corpus
Conclusion: 'Poetic Performance'

Steven Breeze completed his PhD at Birkbeck, University of London. He is a tutor of medieval literature in the Humanities and Languages departments at the City Literary Institute, London.

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9781843846451

October 2022

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9781800108004

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Title Details

278 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

4 b/w. illus

Series: Anglo-Saxon Studies

Series Vol. Number: 45

Imprint: D.S.Brewer