A Beowulf Bookshelf
There has been a great deal written about Beowulf; here are just a few of the books I consider essential reading:
Text and Manuscript
- The standard scholarly edition of the poem is R. D. Fulk, Robert E. Bjork, and John D. Niles, eds. Klaeber’s Beowulf, 4th ed. (Toronto, 2008), updating the edition by Friedrich Klaeber, Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, 3rd ed. (Boston, 1950).
- Another good text, more readable than Klaeber’s in many ways, is Beowulf: an Edition, by Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson (Oxford, 1998); it has an excellent glossary and footnotes.
- The best facing-page edition-with-translation is Howell Chickering, Beowulf: a Dual-Language Edition (Anchor Books, 2006), which also has a fine commentary on the poem.
- The poem survives in only one copy, British Library MS Cotton Vitellius A.xv; a stunning digital facsimile has been edited by Kevin Kiernan and Andrew Prescott, The Electronic Beowulf, 4th edition (2015), online at http://ebeowulf.uky.edu/ebeo4.0-beta/start.html.
- A conventional facsimile was published by J. Zupitza, ed., Beowulf: Autotypes of the Unique Cotton MS. Vitellius A. XV in the British Museum, with a Transliteration (Revised ed. by Norman Davis. Early English Text Society 245; London, 1959).
- it would be disingenuous of me not to mention my own translation here: R. M. Liuzza, Beowulf, 2nd revised edition with facing-page text, published by Broadview Press (Peterborough, ON, 2012).
- Michael Alexander, Beowulf: A Verse Translation (London, etc.: Penguin, 2001).
- Stanley B. Greenfield, A Readable ‘Beowulf’: the Old English Epic Newly Translated. Introduction by Alain Renoir (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1982).
- Seamus Heaney, Beowulf (London: Faber, 1999).
- Marc Hudson, ‘Beowulf’: a Translation and Commentary (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell Univ. Press; London and Toronto: Associated Univ. Presses, 1990).
- Randolph Swearer, Raymond Oliver, and Marijane Osborn, Beowulf: a Likeness. With Introduction by Fred C. Robinson (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 1990).
- Richard Ringler, Beowulf: A New Translation for Oral Delivery (Indianapolis: Hachett, 2007).
- Michael Swanton, Beowulf (Manchester: U of Manchester Press, 1978; rev. ed. Manchester, 1997).
- Craig Williamson, ed. and transl. Beowulf and Other Old English Poems. Foreword by Tom Shippey (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).
- Syd Allan compares a number of different translations online at http://www.beowulftranslations.net/.
- Donald K. Fry, Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburh: A Bibliography (Charlottesville: Bibliographical Society of the U of Virginia, 1969).
- Stanley Greenfield and Fred C. Robinson, A Bibliography of Publications on Old English Literature to the end of 1972 (Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 1980), pp. 125-97.
- Douglas Short, Beowulf Scholarship: An Annotated Bibliography (New York, 1980).
- Robert Hasenfratz, Beowulf Scholarship: An Annotated Bibliography, 1979-90 (New York, 1993).
- Liuzza, R.M. The Old English Newsletter Bibliography Database Complete from 1973 through 2009 http://www.oenewsletter.org/OENDB/index.php. Registration is required but free.
Essays and Studies: Collections
- A list of collections of essays about the poem must start with Robert E. Bjork and John D. Niles, eds., A Beowulf Handbook (Lincoln, NE, 1997), an outstanding eighteen-chapter guide to the critical history of the poem.
- Donald K. Fry, ed. The Beowulf Poet: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1968).
- Lewis E. Nicholson, ed., An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism (Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame Press, 1963).
- Robert Burlin and E.B. Irving, Jr., eds. Old English Studies in Honour of John C. Pope (Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 1974). Contains 8 original articles on Beowulf.
- Joseph Tuso, ed., Beowulf: Translation, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism. Norton Critical Edition (New York: Norton, 1975). Contains 13 reprinted essays.
- Harold Bloom, ed. Beowulf. Modern Critical Interpretations (New York: Chelsea House, 1987; updated edition 2007).
- R. D. Fulk, ed., Interpretations of Beowulf: A Critical Anthology (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991).
- Peter S. Baker, ed., Beowulf. Basic Readings in Anglo-Saxon England 1 (New York: Garland, 1995). Contains 11 reprinted essays and 2 original essays.
- Colin Chase, ed., The Dating of Beowulf. Toronto Old English series 6. (Revised reprint of 1981 ed. Toronto, Buffalo, and London: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1997).
- Daniel Donoghue, ed. Beowulf: A Verse Translation, Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. Norton Critical Edition, Translation by Seamus Heaney (New York: Norton, 2002). Reprints 8 critical essays.
- Eileen A. Joy and Mary K. Ramsay, eds., The Postmodern Beowulf: A Critical Casebook (Morgantown: West Virginia U Press, 2006).
- John M. Hill, ed. On the Aesthetics of Beowulf and Other Old English Poems. Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series 6 (Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 2011).
- Leonard Neidorf, ed., The Dating of Beowulf: A Reassessment (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2014). A collection of vitriolic and intemperate responses to Chase 1981/1997.
There are many excellent studies of the poem; here are only a few
- Larry D. Benson, “The Pagan Coloring of Beowulf,” in Old English Poetry: Fifteen Essays, ed. Robert P. Creed (Providence, 1967), pp. 193-213; rpt. in Baker, Beowulf 1995, pp. 35-50.
- Frederick M. Biggs, “The Politics of Succession in Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon England,” Speculum 80 (2005), 709-41.
- Josephine Bloomfield, “Diminished by Kindness: Frederick Klaeber’s Rewriting of Wealhtheow,” JEGP 93 (1994): 183-203.
- Rolf H. Bremmer, Jr., “Grendel’s Arm and the Law” in Studies in English Language and Literature: ‘Doubt Wisely’, Papers in Honour of E.G. Stanley, ed. M.J. Toswell and E.M. Tyler (London: Routledge 1996), pp. 121-32.
- Carol J. Clover, “The Germanic Context of the Unferþ Episode,” Speculum 55 (1980), 444-68; rpt. in Baker, Beowulf 1995, pp. 127-54.
- Mary Dockray-Miller, “Beowulf’s Tears of Fatherhood,” Exemplaria 10 (1998), 1-28; rpt in Joy and Ramsey, eds., The Postmodern Beowulf, pp. 439-66.
- James W. Earl, “Beowulf and the Origins of Civilization” in Speaking Two Languages: Traditional Disciplines and Contemporary Theory in Medieval Studies, ed. Allen J. Frantzen (Albany 1991), pp. 65-89.
- James W. Earl, Thinking about ‘Beowulf’ (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1994).
- Christine E. Fell, “Paganism in Beowulf: A Semantic Fairy-Tale” in Pagans and Christians: The Interplay between Christian Latin and Traditional Germanic Cultures in Early Medieval Europe, ed. T. Hofstra et al. (Groningen 1995), pp. 9-34.
- Roberta Frank, “The Beowulf Poet’s Sense of History,” in The Wisdom of Poetry: Essays in Early English Literature in Honor of Morton W. Bloomfield. Ed. Larry D. Benson and Siegfried Wenzel (Kalamazoo: Medieval Inst., Western Michigan Univ., 1982).
- Roberta Frank, “Beowulf and Sutton Hoo: The Odd Couple”. In Voyage to the Other World, ed. Calvin Kendall and Peter Wells (Minneapolis, 1992), pp. 47-64.
- Roberta Frank, “A Scandal in Toronto: The Dating of Beowulf a Quarter Century On,” Speculum 82 (2007), 843-64.
- Allen Frantzen, “Writing the Unreadable Beowulf,” in Desire for Origins: New Language, Old English, and Teaching the Tradition (New Brunswick, NJ 1990), pp. 168-200.
- R.D. Fulk, “On Argumentation in Old English Philology, With Particular Reference to the Editing and Dating of Beowulf,” Anglo-Saxon England 32 (2003), 1-26.
- Linda Georgianna, “King Hrethel’s Sorrow and the Limits of Heroic Action in Beowulf,” Speculum 62 (1987), 829-50.
- Robert W. Hanning, “Beowulf as Heroic History,” Medievalia et Humanistica 5 (1974): 77-102.
- John M. Hill, “The Ethnopsychology of In-Law-Feud and the Remaking of Group Identity in Beowulf: The Cases of Hengest and Ingeld,” Philological Quarterly 78 (1999), 97-123.
- Nicholas Howe, Migration and Mythmaking in Anglo-Saxon England (New Haven, 1989). Fifth chapter on Beowulf. A touchstone of contemporary Anglo-Saxon studies.
- Eric Jager, “Speech and Chest in Old English Poetry: Orality or Pectorality?” Speculum 65 (1990), 845–59.
- Stefan Jurasinski, “The Ecstasy of Vengeance: Legal History, Old English Scholarship, and the ‘Feud’ of Hengest,” Review of English Studies 55 (2004), 641-61.
- Susan M. Kim, “‘As I Once Did with Grendel’: Boasting and Nostalgia in Beowulf,” Modern Philology 103.1 (2005), 4-27.
- Yvette Kisor, “The Aesthetics of Beowulf: Structure, Perception, and Desire” in On the Aesthetics of Beowulf and Other Old English Poems, ed. John M. Hill (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press 2011), pp. 227-46.
- Michael Lapidge, “Beowulf, Aldhelm, the Liber Monstrorum and Wessex,” Studi medievali 3rd ser. 23 (1982), 151-91. An argument for the poem’s origins.
- Seth Lerer, “Hrothgar’s Hilt and the Reader in Beowulf,” in Literacy and Power in Anglo-Saxon Literature (Lincoln, NE 1991), pp. 158-82.
- Seth Lerer, “Grendel’s Glove,” ELH 61.4 (1994), 721-51.
- R. M. Liuzza, “Beowulf: Monuments, Memory, History,” in Readings in Medieval Texts: Interpreting Old and Middle English Literature. Ed. Elaine Treharne and David Johnson (Oxford UP, 2005), 91-108.
- Michael Near, “Anticipating Alienation: Beowulf and the Intrusion of Literacy,” PMLA 108 (1993), 320-32.
- John D. Niles, “Locating Beowulf in Literary History,” Exemplaria 5 (1993), 79–109, rpt. in Bloom, ed., Beowulf, pp. 35-62.
- Andy Orchard, A Critical Companion to ‘Beowulf’ (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2004).
- Gillian R. Overing, Language, Sign, and Gender in ‘Beowulf’ (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1990).
- Marijane Osborn, “The Great Feud: Scriptural History and Strife in Beowulf,” PMLA 93 (1978), 973-81; rpt. Baker, Beowulf 1995, pp. 111-25.
- Christine Rauer, Beowulf and the Dragon: Parallels and Analogues (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2000).
- Manish Sharma, “Metalepsis and Monstrosity: The Boundaries of Narrative Structure in Beowulf,” Studies in Philology 102 (2005), 247-79.
- Fred C. Robinson, “Elements of the Marvelous in the Characterization of Beowulf: A Reconsideration of the Textual Evidence,” in Old English Studies in Honour of John C. Pope, ed. Robert B. Burlin and Edward B. Irving (Toronto, 1974), pp. 119-37; rpt. in Baker, Beowulf 1995, pp. 79-96.
- Fred C. Robinson, ‘Beowulf’ and the Appositive Style (John C. Hodges Lectures Series. Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1985).
- Renée Trilling, The Aesthetics of Nostalgia: Historical Representation in Old English Verse (Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 2009). A fine book in the tradition of Howe 1989.
- Patrick Wormald, “Bede, Beowulf, and the Conversion of the Anglo-Saxon Aristocracy,” in Robert T. Farrell, ed., Bede and Anglo-Saxon England: Paper in Honour of the 1300th Anniversary of the Birth of Bede (London: British Archaeological Reports, 1978), 32-95; rpt. in Wormald, The Times of Bede (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), 30-105. A learned argument for the poem’s origins.
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