De Monstro: An Anatomy of Grendel
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Demon, allegory, exile, Scandinavian zombie—Grendel, the first of the monsters in the Old English Beowulf, has been called all of these. But lost in the arguments about what he means is the very basic question of what he is. This project aims to understand Grendel qua monster and investigate how we associate him with the monstrous. I identify for study a number of traits that distinguish him from the humans of the poem--all of which cluster around either morphological abnormality (claws, gigantism, shining eyes) or deviant behavior (anthropophagy, lack of food preparation, etiquette). These traits are specifically selected and work together to form a constellation of transgressions, an embodiment of the monstrous on which other arguments about his symbolic value rest.