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Numerical composition and Beowulf: a reconsideration

  • Yvette Kisor (a1)

Abstract

Discussions of the structure of Beowulf that consider the sections of the poem disposed according to specific mathematical ratios are among the most frequently contested and least accepted by the larger scholarly community. This article examines several theories advocating numerical composition in light of both scholarship that describes structural patterns in the poem and editorial practice. Much agreement is found among theories from widely differing theoretical camps, clustering particularly around the first sections of the poem; however, such agreement does not consistently extend to specific numerical ratios. Further, the significance of such numerical correspondences as can be shown to exist has not been reliably demonstrated.

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