Cloth $62.75 ISBN: 9789053563250 Published June 1999 For sale only in the United States, its dependencies, the Philippines, and Canada

By Weapons Made Worthy

Lords, Retainers and Their Relationship in Beowulf

Jos Bazelmans

By Weapons Made Worthy
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Jos Bazelmans

Distributed for Amsterdam University Press

206 pages | © 1999
Cloth $62.75 ISBN: 9789053563250 Published June 1999 For sale only in the United States, its dependencies, the Philippines, and Canada
In this book Jos Bazelmans offers a new perspective on the relationship between lord and retainer in early medieval society. This perspective goes beyond established politico-economic interpretations and aims for an interpretation of this relationship in ritual-cosmological terms.

Drawing on recent developments within French structuralist anthropology and the anthropology of gift exchange, Bazelmans develops a new model of early medieval socio-political structure (as represented in Old English Beowulf) which explicitly deals with exchange relations between the living and the supernatural, the commensurablity of subject and object in gift exchange, and the whole set of interdependent life-cycle rituals of lords and their warrior-followers. The value of gifts is considered to be determined not only by their function within a competitive game about prestige, status and power, but also by its equivalence with a constituent. The value of the gift is fundamental to the noble person and develops through a man's life-time. It is, ultimately, of a supernatural origin.

The model enables us to understand certain acts at Beowulf's funeral pyre which at first sight appear to be no more than an ethnographic curiosity (Beowulf 3111b-3114a). The warrior's contributions to his pyre form the concluding part of a grand ritual undertaking in which society as a whole is involved and in which the constitution of the noble person, and the disarticulation of that person at his death, is realized. This ritual undertaking goes beyond the politico-economic concerns of the participants which are central to established power-based models of early medieval societal structure. The volume includes an extensive overview of the anthropology of gift exchange.

List of Illustrations
1. The Relationship Between Lord and Warrior-Follower in Germanic Societies
2.  The Anthropology of the Gift: the Heirs of Marcel Mauss
2.1  Introduction
2.2  The anthropology of exchange
2.3  Marcel Mauss' Essai sur le don: three controversial assumptions and conclusions
2.3.1  The Essai sur le don
2.3.2  Cultural diversity and speculations on origins and evolution
2.3.3  Giving or asking, taking and keeping
2.3.4  The commensurability of subject and object
3.  Louis Dumont, Casa-Erasme and Exchange
3.1  Introduction
3.2  Homo hierarchicus
3.3  Some central concepts:  structure, ideology, hierarchy, level and value
3.4  Homo maior and Homo minor: hierarchy and equality
3.5  The holistic society of the Tobelo of Halmahera (Indonesia)
3.6  The study and comparison of non-modern societies and systems of exchange
3.7  Gift exchange among the Tobelo of Halmahera: human constituents as valued parts of exchange objects
3.8  Conclusion
4.  Christian Thought and Beowulf
4.1  Introduction
4.2  Christian thought and Beowulf: an overview
4.3  Beowulf as corrupted text
4.4  A secular text in a Christian era
4.4.1  Beowulf: a Christian poem
4.4.2  Beowulf and ancestral ethics
4.4.3  A critique of the secular interpretation of Beowulf
4.5  Pagan literature and pagan ancestors in Christian perspective
4.6  Adam, Job, Christ and Beowulf: typological and allegorical interpretations of Beowulf
4.6.1  Beowulf as a figura of Christ
4.6.2  Beowulf's lost battle
4.6.3  A critique of Goldsmith's allegorical reading of Beowulf
4.7  Pagan, noble but without hope:  a Christian perspective on an ancestral past
4.8  Conclusion
5.  Mapping Society in Beowulf
5.1  Introduction
5.2  Beowulf: a universe of relationships
5.3  Space, time and social structure
5.3.1  The king and the royal family
5.3.2  The throne, the treasure, the hall and the stronghold
5.3.3  The king's retinue
5.3.4  The land and the people
5.3.5  Neighboring people and monsters
5.3.6  God
5.3.7  Time and the life-cycle
6.  Gift Exchange and the Constitution of Person and Society in Beowulf
6.1  Introduction
6.2  The human person, society and objects of exchange
6.2.1  Objects of exchange in Beowulf
6.2.2  The constitution of the person in Beowulf
6.2.3  Life and image; fertility and reputation
6.3  Ceremonial gift exchange and the constitution of person and society in Beowulf: a model
6.3.1  The elements of the model
6.3.2  The model illustrated by Beowulf's life cycle
7.  Epilogue: Beyond Power
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