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The Postmodern Beowulf

Edited by
Eileen A. Joy and Mary K. Ramsey
PB  978-1-933202-08-2


This work includes twenty-four essays including a preface, introduction, afterword, and sections containing seminal methodological pieces by such giants as Edward Said and Michel Foucault, as well as contemporary applications to Beowulf and other Old English and Germanic texts focusing on historicism, psychoanalysis, gender, textuality, and post-colonialism.


  1. Preface
    • After Everything, The Post Modern "Beowulf"
        Eileen A. Joy
  2. Introduction
    • Liquid Beowulf
        Eileen A. Joy and Mary K. Ramsey
  3. History/Historicism
    • Critical Contexts
    • The World, the Text, and the Critic
        Edward Said
    • In Transit: Theorizing Cultural Appropriation in Medieval Europe
        Claire Sponsler
    • "Beowulf" Essays
    • Beowulf and the Ancestral Homeland
        Nicholas Howe
    • Writing the Unreadable Beowulf
        Allen J. Frantzen
    • Locating Beowulf
        John D. Niles
  4. Ethnography/Psychonalysis
    • Critical Contexts
    • Ethnicity, Power and the English
        John Moreland
    • Landscapes of Conversion: Guthlac's Mound and Grendel's Mere as Expressions of Anglo-Saxon National-Building
        Alfred K. Siewers
    • "Beowulf" Essays
    • Beowulf and the Origins of Civilization
        James W. Earl
    • Enjoyment of Violence and Desire for History in Beowulf
        Janet Thormann
    • The Ethnopsychology of In-Law Feud and the Remaking of Group Indentity in Beowulf: the Cases of Hengest and Ingeld
        John M. Hill
  5. Gender/Identity
    • Critical Contexts
    • The Ruins of Identity
        Jeffery J. Cohen
    • Regardless of Sex: Men, Women, and Power in Early northern Europe
        Carol J. Clover
    • "Beowulf" Essays
    • Men and Beowulf
        Clare A. Lees
    • Beowulf's Tears of Fatherhood
        Mary Dockray-Miller
    • Voices from the Margins: Women and Textual Enclosure in Beowulf
        Shari Horner
  6. Text and Textuality
    • Critical Contexts
    • What is an Author?
        Michel Foucault
    • The Textuality of Old English Poetry
        Carol Braun Pasternack
    • "Beowulf" Essays
    • Swods and Sighns: Dynamic Semeiosis in Beowulf
        Gillian Overing
    • Hrothgar's Hilt and the Reader in Beowulf
        Seth Lerer
    • "As I Once Did With Grendel": Boasting and Nostalgia in Beowulf
        Susan Kim
  7. Postscript: Philology and Postcolonialism
    • Post-Philology
        Michelle R. Warren
  8. Afterword
    • Reading Beowulf with Original Eyes
        James W. Earl


Eileen Joy is Professor of English and Literature at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Joy has a PhD in English from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an MFA and BA in creative writing and English from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Mary K. Ramsey is Assistant Professor of English at Southeastern Louisiana University.


“Most of us are not looking to find adventure in Beowulf, much less the meaning of life. What we are looking for at this moment is the sort of knowledge that might proceed from a radical defamiliarization of this far-too-familiar text, setting it free from centuries of encrusted ideologies. In the case of Beowulf, I think, such a radical defamiliarization will reveal a radical strangeness in the poem. Freed from its roles in all our grand narratives, Beowulf stands apart, an unexpected singularity. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, weird.”
James W. Earl, University of Oregon