ICMS Beowulf the Monster

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
International Congress of Medieval Studies
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Session Title: Beowulf the Monster 



Although Beowulf has long held place as a praise poem, a rising tide of critique has noted various elements that frame the central protagonist and other heroic figures in the poem as monstrous in key respects (Greenfield, 1982; Griffith 1995; Orchard 1995; Köberl 2002; Sharma 2005; Gwara 2009). Despite these critiques, however, the hero’s virtuous standing remains intact—particularly, in his reputation for exceptional loyalty in a poem replete with inter-tribal feuds and intra-tribal treachery.

Description for Call for Papers:

This session will interrogate conventional approaches, which valorize Beowulf’s alignment with warrior ethics while condemning the monsters for similar behavior. Topics may include the tension between heroic deeds and monstrous acts, the intersection between Beowulf and his opponents, the destructive role of revenge and tribalism (specifically the rhetoric of in-group vs out-group), the ways in which heroic actions frequently result in devastating outcomes, and the monstrous attributes of such characters as Heremod, Fremu, Unferth, etc. In sum, any project that explores the connection, whether lexical or narratological, between representations of heroism and monstrosity in the poem may be considered.

Delivery Mode Traditional in-person


Principal Sponsoring Organization: Medieval Studies Research Blog at the University of Notre Dame