Borders and blood : creativity in Beowulf /

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Brown, Lisa
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Middle Tennessee State University
In Dimensions of Creativity, Margaret A. Boden defines a bordered, conceptual space as the realm of creativity; therefore, one may argue that the ubiquitous presence of boundaries throughout the Old English poem Beowulf suggests that it is a work about creativity. Since Beowulf creates stories from his exploits, and since those exploits consist of shedding blood as a result of both geographic and corporeal crossings, the blood must be seen as the inspiration for his narratives from the border. Not only does he prove himself to be a maker because of the stories he generates, but Beowulf also fits both the personality profile and behavior pattern of creators. Although Grendel also kills, he absorbs the blood rather than making something from it and thereby becomes a representation of the evil creative act. Beowulf, however, is a man with social and political duties, and his struggle with these as they conflict with his need for personal and private creativity culminates in his experience in the creative realm itself, the cave in the mere with the mother and the sword of the giants. Using Dorothy L. Sayers' arguments from The Mind of the Maker that humanity mirrors God in one major aspect, the need to create, and that culture is at odds with this need, Beowulf may be viewed as heeding his social responsibilities and out of necessity negating his creativity. In doing so, he suppresses violence and bloodshed, trying to find a way to negotiate between them and public duty. The result is tragic: he becomes almost non-productive in order to preserve his kingdom. As a work that regards creativity ambiguously, Beowulf may also be seen to speak to the concerns of the monastics who produced it and their struggles with the problem of trying to determine when the creative act is worship and when it is idolatry.
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