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246 Reviews Nuttall claims that Shakespeare has destroyed the form of tragedy as weU. This is an exploration of the play's uniquely painful effect which chimes impressively with Stephen Booth's. A n d as both critics note, for some honourable' readers, such as Johnson, this is a tragedy which does not please. A n n Blake School of English La Trobe University Orchard, Andy, Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf-Manuscript, Cambridge, D. S. Brewer, 1995; cloth; pp. viu, 352; R.R.P. £39.50. In recent years there has been a good deal of scholarly interest in concepts of monsters and the monstrous, mainly focussing on the symboUc and psychodynamic meaning of these potent creatures of the imagination. Mantike monsters in particular sit at the edge of our consciousness, the psychic borderlands where boundaries cross, ready to disturb our exclusive 'rational' taxonomies of man/animal (Bigfoot, Werewolves, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Fly), man/plant (The Day of the Triffids), m a n /machine (Robocop, The Terminator), living/dead (zombies, vampires) and terrestrial/extra-terrestrial (aUens). Falling into the gaps or interstices between culturaUydetermined categories, these 'interstitial ogres' (to use the evocative term coined by WilUam Clements) pose a threat to the primary concepts and categories of h u m a n culture itself, and so are alluring— because transgressing categories is tempting—but also fearful. The first 'interstitial ogres' in EngUsh literature are Grendel and his mother, reported by Hrothgar's folk in Beowulf as huge, manlike creatures w h o inhabit the borderlands, moors and wastelands, places avoided by people and beyond the pale of h u m a n civilization. Like the Grendels themselves, the places they inhabit are marginal or Iiminal, the place of the non-human 'other'. Repulsed as the fearful Other, monsters have much to teU us about Ourselves. In this stimulating and wide-ranging study, Cambridge scholar A n d y Orchard doesn't refer to these recent explorations, which might Reviews 247 have given his o w n work a firmer theoretical context. Instead he takes the theme of 'pride and prodigies' and explores psychic borderlands of his own, the shadowy zone in which notions of the mighty and the monstrous, heroism and hubris, can very easUy lose their definition and merge. The universal mixture of fear and fascination elicited by contemplation of the monstrous is evident in Anglo-Saxon England in orthodox Christian attitudes to the secular heroes which their pagan forebears had invested with so m u c h positive moral force. Orchard concludes that the old monster-slayers were themselves becoming demonised, and that new heroes Uke St Christopher and the Old Testament Judith were being promoted to take then place in the pantheon of Christian heroes. His thesis is developed in six essays foUowed by a weighty set of appendices containing texts (in both Latin and Old English) and translations of The Wonders of the East, The Letter of Alexander to Aristotle and the Liber monstrorum. Orchard has done a valuable service in making this material accessible, and the texts he suppUes are carefuUy edited with fuU textual apparatus. Critical commentaries are not suppUed, although sources and analogues to the Liber monstrorum are Usted briefly in Appendix IIIc. The book is written with clarity and vigour, and the author's careful assinulation of previous (traditional) scholarship gives weight to his judgements and cogency to his many new insights. In the opening chapter on the Beowulf-manuscript, London, British Library, Cotton VitelUus A. xv, Orchard discusses the relationships between the four texts, The Passion of St Christopher, The Wonders of the East, The Letter of Alexander to Aristotle (aU in prose), and the poems Beowulf and Judith, and draws out a network of specific themes and motifs that connect them beyond the general interest in 'monsters' perceived by previous critics. Judith and St Christopher exhibit 'the theme of saintly forbearance overcoming regal arrogance' (p. 27), and the latter text introduces the 'distinction to be made between the basicaUy antagonistic worlds of monsters and men, and the merging and mingling to be observed between them'. This theme is developed in the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 246-250
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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