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The origin of the numbered sections in Beowulf and in other Old English poems

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 June 2007

Abstract

Most observers now agree that the fitt numbers in Beowulf were not in the scribes' exemplar. A question less frequently addressed is whether the sectional divisions themselves are authorial or whether the poem was divided in the course of manuscript transmission. Several of the divisions in the portion of the poem copied by the second scribe make little narrative sense, while the divisions in the first scribe's work are sufficiently rational. The difference suggests that it is these scribes who are responsible for having introduced the divisions. A consideration of sectional divisions in other poems demonstrates that many of these divisions, too, are unlikely to be authorial.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006

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