Recent Books on Beowulf
Tripp, Jr. Raymond P.
Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 2 (1985)
An overview of recent books on Beowulf must deal with the implications of critical styles rather than specific arguments and conclusions. In this light recent books show that the study of Beowulf has arrived at a crucial turning point, as competing academic and social forces run their course. Disparate scholarly methods, as the expression of philosophical and religious differences, have resulted in a welter of conflicting interpretations. These may be organized, however, in two broad classes with certain subdivisions. There are those books which (1) accept and work within the Klaeber-consensus, and (2) aim at refining this text, deferring overall interpretations.1 The first category includes varieties of (a) close readers and (b) Christian-cultural historicists or “influence” critics; while the second is divided over the nature of textual objectivity into (c) camera realists and (d) linguistic realists, who differ over the best ways to improve the text. Very few books on Beowulf are simple, so that one is to expect an inevitable overlapping of these working classifications.