Article published in:Historical (socio)pragmatics at present
Edited by Matylda Włodarczyk and Irma Taavitsainen
[Journal of Historical Pragmatics 18:2] 2017
► pp. 175–194
wine min Unferð
Courtly speech and a reconsideration of (supposed) sarcasm in Beowulf
This paper argues for a reconsideration of the pragmatics of Beowulf, specifically in relation to speech in what is known as the “Unferð Episode”, and more generally in terms of the poem’s placement in the ethnopragmatic history of English. Previous critics have almost unanimously read sarcasm into Beowulf’s treatment of the initially hostile Unferð (e.g., in his address to the latter as wine min, ‘my friend’), and in turn historical pragmaticists have discussed the poem in relation to Germanic insult-boasts, or flyting. By discussing the relevant contextual and co-textual frames, I show that previous interpretations along these lines have failed to recognize the import of Beowulf’s courtly speech.
Keywords: Beowulf, Christianity, courtliness, sarcasm, Unferð
Published online: 09 February 2018
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