Snorri Sturluson and "Beowulf"

Date of Completion

January 2001


Literature, Medieval|Literature, Slavic and East European




With a theoretical footing in reception theory, specifically the works of Hans Robert Jauss and in the poetic philosophy of skaldic poetry, this study seeks to examine the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf from the distinct vantage point of the Icelandic chieftain, poet, and historian Snorri Sturluson. Special attention is given to setting up of a dialectic between the Prose Edda, the Heimskringla and Beowulf. This dialectic yields a greater understanding of all three texts' fluid presentation of mythic, legendary and historical time frames. An analysis of the liminality of these time frames reveals that the tension and conflicts of the works occur when characters, heroic or evil, are able to transcend them. In addition, Snorri's presentation of kingship as a fluid and dynamic construct parallels a similar construct in Anglo-Saxon epic. In these three texts, the paradigmatic concept of an ideal king changed as the cultures abandoned pagan/secular values in favor of Christian ones. ^