Poster Title

Virtue Epistemology and Narration in 'Beowulf'

Grade Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Institution

Morehead State University

KY House District #

51

KY Senate District #

16

Department

Department of History, Philosophy, International Studies, and Legal Studies

Abstract

The Beowulf-poet utilizes a third-person omniscient narrator, telling Beowulf entirely through the third-person narration. While the epic poem offers a single narrative style, the Beowulf-poet incorporates two perspectives, namely those of the third-person omniscient narrator and Beowulf. Scholars like Taylor Culbert frown upon the Beowulf-poet’s narrative choice, viewing it as anticlimactic. Other scholars, like Charles Moorman, hold that the Beowulf-poet’s choice reinforces the role of omniscient narration in epic tradition, posing little, if any, problem for climactic appeal. This paper approached Beowulf through a virtue epistemic reading. Virtue epistemology holds that (1) there are certain epistemic virtues, like open-mindedness and a desire for knowledge which (2) aid in one’s acquisition of knowledge. Fate is a pervasive force in epic tradition; it is neither avoidable nor changeable. Likewise, heroism is an integral theme to the heroic epic, with these epics chronicling the journeys, battles, and the like of a protagonist. This paper argued that the third-person narrator, being a determiner of fate, also holds as an epistemic standard through which to measure Beowulf’s heroism. Passages written in Beowulf’s perspective expose Beowulf’s epistemic virtues and the development of those epistemic virtues through the course of Beowulf. This paper appealed to virtue epistemology to contend that the Beowulf-poet’s placement of Beowulf’s perspective is not an arbitrary or anticlimactic one, but rather an intentional one that reveals Beowulf’s growth as a hero. A virtue epistemic reading does not beg the question the way appealing to literary conventions does, providing a new theoretical framework through which to measure characterization in Beowulf.

KEY WORDS: virtue epistemology, epistemic virtue, literary criticism, Beowulf

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Virtue Epistemology and Narration in 'Beowulf'

The Beowulf-poet utilizes a third-person omniscient narrator, telling Beowulf entirely through the third-person narration. While the epic poem offers a single narrative style, the Beowulf-poet incorporates two perspectives, namely those of the third-person omniscient narrator and Beowulf. Scholars like Taylor Culbert frown upon the Beowulf-poet’s narrative choice, viewing it as anticlimactic. Other scholars, like Charles Moorman, hold that the Beowulf-poet’s choice reinforces the role of omniscient narration in epic tradition, posing little, if any, problem for climactic appeal. This paper approached Beowulf through a virtue epistemic reading. Virtue epistemology holds that (1) there are certain epistemic virtues, like open-mindedness and a desire for knowledge which (2) aid in one’s acquisition of knowledge. Fate is a pervasive force in epic tradition; it is neither avoidable nor changeable. Likewise, heroism is an integral theme to the heroic epic, with these epics chronicling the journeys, battles, and the like of a protagonist. This paper argued that the third-person narrator, being a determiner of fate, also holds as an epistemic standard through which to measure Beowulf’s heroism. Passages written in Beowulf’s perspective expose Beowulf’s epistemic virtues and the development of those epistemic virtues through the course of Beowulf. This paper appealed to virtue epistemology to contend that the Beowulf-poet’s placement of Beowulf’s perspective is not an arbitrary or anticlimactic one, but rather an intentional one that reveals Beowulf’s growth as a hero. A virtue epistemic reading does not beg the question the way appealing to literary conventions does, providing a new theoretical framework through which to measure characterization in Beowulf.

KEY WORDS: virtue epistemology, epistemic virtue, literary criticism, Beowulf