Session Title

"Ungelic is us": Queer Old English Elegies

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Elan Justice Pavlinich

Organizer Affiliation

Univ. of South Florida

Presider Name

Elan Justice Pavlinich

Paper Title 1

Inhuman Intimacies in Wulf and Eadwacer

Presenter 1 Name

Eliot Rosch-Eifert

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Independent Scholar

Paper Title 2

Our Islands: Queering the Non-human in Anglo-Saxon Elegies

Presenter 2 Name

Jes Battis

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Univ. of Regina

Paper Title 3

"Heofen Rece Swealg": Pagan Tradition and the Ambiguous Afterlife in Beowulf

Presenter 3 Name

Harley Joyce Campbell

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Univ. of South Florida

Paper Title 4

The Queer Art of Anger: Failure, Rage, and Relationships in Old English Elegies

Presenter 4 Name

Marjorie Housley

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Univ. of Notre Dame

Start Date

12-5-2017 3:30 PM

Session Location

Fetzer 2030

Description

This panel focuses on the instability of meaning in Old English elegies. Because queerness bears nuanced connotations that require individual definition, this session is open to a broad understanding of the term “queer” and how queer theory enhances our understanding of the elegies in Anglo-Saxon culture. Approaches may include, but are not limited to, manuscript history and paleography, generic conventions and their reception, as well as literary innovations within specific texts.

Instability, gaps, and overlaps characterize Old English elegies at lower levels of linguistic and thematic content, and at higher levels of generic conventions that scholars have imposed. Thematically speaking, a queer reading could preserve the complexity of individual desire located within broad natural cycles of ebb and flow, and everlasting spiritual existence. Considering genre, Paul E. Szarmach observes, “if the Exeter Book had not survived, the only elegies extant in the literary corpus of Old English would be two passages in Beowulf known as ‘The Old Man's Lament’ and ‘The Lay of the Last Survivor[;’ and so], because these are contained within Beowulf, it is entirely possible that [Old English elegies] would not even now be recognized as exhibiting their own genre.” Overlapping with other genres, some scholars read elegies as an extension of Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry, albeit with a more dreary outcome for the speaker who serves an absent lord. Others have noted the formal characteristics that elegies share with wisdom literature and the riddles. In what ways are the expectations of genre violated by particular Old English elegies? In what ways do they challenge generic categories? How does elegy, exposing the cyclical yet ultimately transient nature of creation, disturb linear, straight notions of progression and procreation?

Elan Pavlinich

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May 12th, 3:30 PM

"Ungelic is us": Queer Old English Elegies

Fetzer 2030

This panel focuses on the instability of meaning in Old English elegies. Because queerness bears nuanced connotations that require individual definition, this session is open to a broad understanding of the term “queer” and how queer theory enhances our understanding of the elegies in Anglo-Saxon culture. Approaches may include, but are not limited to, manuscript history and paleography, generic conventions and their reception, as well as literary innovations within specific texts.

Instability, gaps, and overlaps characterize Old English elegies at lower levels of linguistic and thematic content, and at higher levels of generic conventions that scholars have imposed. Thematically speaking, a queer reading could preserve the complexity of individual desire located within broad natural cycles of ebb and flow, and everlasting spiritual existence. Considering genre, Paul E. Szarmach observes, “if the Exeter Book had not survived, the only elegies extant in the literary corpus of Old English would be two passages in Beowulf known as ‘The Old Man's Lament’ and ‘The Lay of the Last Survivor[;’ and so], because these are contained within Beowulf, it is entirely possible that [Old English elegies] would not even now be recognized as exhibiting their own genre.” Overlapping with other genres, some scholars read elegies as an extension of Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry, albeit with a more dreary outcome for the speaker who serves an absent lord. Others have noted the formal characteristics that elegies share with wisdom literature and the riddles. In what ways are the expectations of genre violated by particular Old English elegies? In what ways do they challenge generic categories? How does elegy, exposing the cyclical yet ultimately transient nature of creation, disturb linear, straight notions of progression and procreation?

Elan Pavlinich