Feminine monstrosity, monsters, Beowulf, Judith, motherhood
Monstrosity has always been a recurrent topic in literature, especially during the Anglo-Saxon period, as people were fascinated by what was considered as abnormal, such as monsters, marvels and miracles. Definition of monstrosity is intricate and is profoundly associated with the viewer's perception of difference, which is subjective. Highly associated with the notion of the self to create the other, the judgment of someone or something as being monstrous is deeply ingrained with societal norms and beliefs. Moreover, the etymology comes from the Latin word monstrum, which means to reveal or to warn. Therefore, the readers understand the significance of monsters within literature and more generally in society, as a harbinger of plausible dangers and threats. Heroic society, was like most other societies, a gendered one. That is to say that gender, defined as the "social condition of being male or female" (Cambridge Dictionary) played a great part in shaping one's identity and to integrate within or to marginalize beings from the social group, creating thus outcasts and monsters.
This essay seeks to investigate the monstrous in relation to genders, in both Beowulf and Judith, with an emphasize on feminine monstrosity.
[...] During the fight, the poem mentions that "the shining blade refused to bite" (line 1523), leaving Beowulf distraught. Grendel's mother also has a sword in her armoury, which is not what a female would be expected to have. Also, it is worth reminding that Beowulf chooses to arm himself, suggesting that he expects the mother to have knowledge of arms and weapons, whereas he did not arm himself to fight Grendel. In addition, Judith also knows how to use and handle a sword, she is a competent warrior- maiden, leaving the readers full of questions. [...]
[...] Faber and Faber Print. Secondary sources Acker, Paul. ‘Horror and the Maternal in “Beowulf”'. PMLA, vol no Modern Language Association pp. 702–16. JSTOR. Accessed on Monday 6th April 2020. Cooper, Tracey-Anne. “Judith in Late Anglo-Saxon England.” The Sword of Judith: Judith Studies Across the Disciplines, edited by Kevin R. Brine et al., 1st ed., Open Book Publishers, Cambridge pp. [...]
[...] The poems show that morality matters more than genders, by making Judith a Saint while she is guilty of tyrannicide, and by presenting Holofernes as a perverted leader, and therefore, a monster. Each poem is open to reflection and allows the reader to ruminate upon heroic societies, the role of vengeance, the symbolism of the mother, the legitimacy of female murderers and most importantly, the ever-lasting image of monstrosity associated with both Beowulf and Judith's characters. BIBLIOGRAPHY Primary sources Fulk, R. D., editor. The Beowulf Manuscript: Complete Text&s; and The Fight at Finnsburg. Harvard University Press Print. Heaney, Seamus, editor. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. [...]
[...] Similarly, Judith is sent for by Holofernes and she will undoubtedly be attacked by him. At first, she appears to have quite a submissive role, she almost gets raped, but then, her behaviour shifts and she becomes active, she fights and kills him before he can hurt her. Far from being actionless, she shows that she is not willing to let herself be pushed around. However, it is worth considering Judith's free will in the murder. Indeed, Judith is a Saint and she seems to be acting under God's will. [...]
[...] However, it is paradoxical as her motherhood, which is a very strong symbol full of interpretations, is what defines her. Indeed, the discourse of psychoanalysis formulated interesting and relevant theories about the Mother and motherhood, which allows the reader to read into Grendel's mother and the Beowulf narrative through psychological analysis. It is worth pointing out that the mere where she lives is underwater and contrasts perfectly with Heorot, which would represent wealth, the abundance of goods, and overall, the most beautiful hall. [...]
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