esthetic perception in Beowulf : a study of the sensible, spatial, and temporal in the narrative art of the poem

Magdalena Anna Maidie Hilmo
This study deals with the treatment of the senses in the telling of the story of Beowulf. The purpose is to lay the groundwork for modern readers who wish to appreciate the poem's aesthetic qualities but cannot fully relate to the poet's method of description. It is necessary to have an overall view of the manner of description used to convey sensuous experiences. The poet employs one or more concrete details to delineate the most important characteristics of his subject, thereby penetrating
more » ... essential nature. The audience imaginatively completes the rest of the picture once it has been given the most pertinent and revealing clues, similar in manner to the impressionistic outline drawings of the period. Even speeches are grounded by some tangible reference to the speaker or his situation. To enrich a passage the poet piles up several synecdochical images in variations to achieve the same effect as that produced by a diamond slowly revolved so that the light illuminates various sparkling facets from different viewpoints. Included in the variations are always a few concrete details to permit tangible apprehension of the subject. The details function thematically as well as stylistically. A visual parallel to this method, showing a similarity in the mode of perception, is that of the interlace designs in which various strands are highlighted and then submerged, enabling comparison and contrast by the juxtaposition of various elements. It is a way of presenting multiple coordinate happenings instantly. The sort of concrete details given parallel the visual arts in the featuring of head and hands. Another thematic parallel is evident in the snake motif. Visually and symbolically, the poet brings together tangible images in the contrasting movements of light-dark and vertical-horizontal. The method of description in any era depends on the way in which the people are accustomed to perceiving the world around them. In Beowulf the most significant sense is the visual9 as indicated by the numerous words of sight. Ev [...]
doi:10.14288/1.0302242 fatcat:mir2fqkmhrc57dyo3kvngyv5s4