Direct Speech in Beowulf and Other Old English Narrative Poems

A new examination of the little-studied phenomenon of Direct Speech in Old English poetry.

Direct Speech in Beowulf

Some of the most celebrated passages of Old English poetry are speeches: Beowulf and Unferth’s verbal contest, Hrothgar’s words of advice, Satan’s laments, Juliana’s words of defiance, etc. Yet Direct Speech, as a stylistic device, has remained largely under-examined and under-theorized in studies of the corpus. As a consequence, many analyses are unduly influenced by anachronistic conceptions of Direct Speech, leading to problematic interpretations, not least concerning irony and implicit characterisation.

This book uses linguistic theories to reassess the role of Direct Speech in Old English narrative poetry. Beowulf is given a great deal of attention, because it is a major poem and because it is the focus of much of the existing scholarship on this subject, but it is examined in a broader poetic context: the poem belongs to a wider tradition and thus needs to be understood in that context. The texts examined include several major Old English narrative poems, in particular the two Genesis, Christ and Satan, Andreas, Elene, Juliana and Guthlac A.

Elise Louviot is a Lecturer at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne (France) and a specialist of Old English poetry. Her research interests include orality, tradition, formulas and the linguistic expression of subjectivity.

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