Beowulf and the Appositive Style
Originally published in 1985, Fred T. Robinson’s classic study asserts that the appositive style of Beowulf helps the poet communicate his Christian vision of pagan life. By alerting the audience to both the older and the newer meanings of words, the poet was able to resolve the fundamental tension which pervades his narration of ancient heroic deeds.
Robinson describes Beowulf’s major themes and the grammatical and stylistic aspects of its appositive strategies. He then considers the poet’s use of the semantically stratified vocabulary of Old English poetry to accommodate a party Christian and partly pre-Christian perspective on the events being narrated. The analysis draws attention to the ways in which modern editors and lexicographers have obscured stylistic aspects of the poem by imposing upon it various modern conventions.
Appositional techniques, Robinson shows, serve not only the poet’s major themes but also his narrative purposes. A grasp of the fundamental role played by the appositive style in Beowulf gives the reader new ways of understanding some of the epic’s familiar passages. The new foreword addresses the reception this book has had and examines recent scholarship in the ongoing interest in this amazing poem.