By H. Blurton
This ebook reads the unusually common representations of cannibals and cannibalism in medieval English literature as political metaphors that have been primary to England's on-going means of articulating cultural and nationwide identity.
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Extra resources for Cannibalism in High Medieval English Literature
If the physical correspondences between the island of Mermedonia and the island of Britain are clear and striking, so too are the cultural correspondences between the Mermedonians of the poem and the Anglo-Saxons of its audience. The accumulation of cultural correspondences between the cannibals inside the text and the Anglo-Saxons outside of it is especially striking since the cannibal Mermedonians are described on every occasion, not in the mode of the Marvels of the East tradition-where cannibals are physically as well as ideologically monstrous-but, rather as an Anglo-Saxon war band.
The Anglo-Latin prose tradition similarly demonstrates this understanding of the English landscape as distinctively marked by Roman ruins, as Michael Hunter describes: Cuthbert was shown "the city wall and well formerly built in a wonderful manner by the Romans" at Carlisle in 685, Bede often referred to the relics of Roman Britain and Alcuin mentioned the Roman remains at York in his De Pontificibus et Sanctis Ecclesiae Eboracensis Carmen. "35 If the phrase enta geweorc is a metaphor for the Roman architectural remains of Anglo-Saxon England, then its transposition to Mermedonia suggests that Mermedonia looks like England and thus suggests an imaginary conflation of the two.
739-745a; think long to delay seized a warrior, -ripped him apartswilled blood from veins, in hardly a moment all of the dead man 91) 37 This chapter argues that Grendel's cannibalism spectacularly and gruesomely figures the poem's concern with the dismembering of the body politic. In other words, Grendel's cannibalism emphasizes not only the poem's concern with bodily fragmentation, but also with political fragmentation. If this is where Beowulfbegins its cannibal narrative, Grendel's sudden appearance is the culmination of the overarching cannibal narrative of the Beowulf-manuscript.