Beowulf Poet and His Real Monsters. A Trauma- Theory Reading of the Anglo- Saxon Poem

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Opens a new line of inquiry into the Old English poem, specifically trauma theory, which attempts to map the psychological typography of an author and his or her culture, that is, when the text appears to be wrought of traumatic experience.

Indicators of a “trauma text” are narrative techniques often associated with postmodernism--expressly, intertextuality, repetition, a dispersed or fragmented voice, and a search for powerful language. The anonymous Beowulf poet made extensive use of all four narrative techniques, suggesting he and his culture were suffering some sort of traumatic stress. The author brings together knowledge from myriad disciplines, among them history, anthropology, sociology, biology, psychology, with special emphases on the branches of psychoanalysis and neuropsychology--and focuses his trauma-theory reading on the poem's original language.


“Morrissey’s illuminating monograph demonstrates the advantages of bringing newer critical strategies to bear on the poem, especially ‘postmodern’ ones looking at Beowulf through postmodern eyes fosters a greater appreciation of the craftsmanship and subtlety of this masterpiece ... I was previously unaware of trauma theory, but Morrissey argues convincingly that this branch of postmodern theory shines new light on several murky aspects of the poem, on what some readers call its disjointedness and downright weirdness ... Morrissey shows how other postmodern strategies illuminate the poem, and respectfully suggests these new approaches can supplement, not supplant, the more traditional philological approaches.”
-Dr. Steven Moore
Independent Scholar

“The reading is well documented, provocative, and goes far in bringing our discussion of this ancient text into the realm of twenty-first century thought.”
-Prof. Robert E. Bjork,
Arizona State University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Steven Moore
Chapter 1: Language, Thought, and the Creation of Trauma Cultures
Trauma Theory: A Retrospective
The Creation of Trauma Cultures
The Pervasiveness of Trauma Cultures
The Creation of Trauma Texts
Chapter 2: "Postmodern” Narration, and Characteristics of the Traumatized Voice
Postmodern Techniques and the Voice of the Traumatized
Beowulf and Its Intertexts
Repetition in Beowulf
The Poem’s Dispersed or Fragmented Voice
The Poet’s Powerful Language
Beowulf and the Zone
Chapter 3: The Beowulf Poet, and Trauma in Anglo-Saxon England
The Beowulf Poet as a Real Author
Literacy and Textual Communities
The Dating Controversy
Violence in Anglo-Saxon England: The Peasant Class and the Clergy
Quality of Life and Anglo-Saxon Medicine
Posttraumatic Stress among the Anglo-Saxons
Chapter 4: A Trauma-Theory Reading of Beowulf
The Psychic Origins of Creativity
Trauma Theory and the Monsters
Grendel’s Invasion of Heorot Hall
The Dragon and His Lair
Conclusion: Embracing New Directions in Scholarship

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