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Beowulf off the map

  • Alfred Hiatt (a1)

Abstract

This essay uses maps that have illustrated Beowulf since Klaeber's edition as a starting point for an exploration of spatial representation in the poem. It is argued that modern maps do not offer particularly useful tools for understanding the poem, and that ‘chorography’, that is, the description of regional space, may be a more accurate term for analysis of Beowulf than ‘geography’. The poem presents a topography intimately connected to the interrelations of different peoples, and the frequent movement between past, present and future times. The final section of the article considers the postmedieval reception of spatial reference in Beowulf, disputes the presence of an Anglo-Saxon ‘migration myth’ in the poem, and raises some implications for genre that result from spatial analysis.

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