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Grendel’s Mother in the context of the myth of the Woman in the Water

Ball, Charlotte Elizabeth (2011)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

This thesis proposes that the character of Grendel’s mother in Beowulf is a manifestation of a mythic type, derived from studies of European goddess figures and named here as the Woman in the Water. This myth takes the form of an inherent association between femininity and water, and connotes the binary oppositions of birth and death, creativity and destruction, and the overarching themes of chaos and transience. By examining the imagery in Beowulf and its contemporary literature, this thesis studies the figure of Grendel’s mother in the context of this myth, looking at how the nature of motherhood and the element of water combine to form a powerful symbolic image emblematising the transience of life. These images are interpreted within a psychoanalytical framework as well as a mythic contextual one, providing the myth with an analogue in the human subconscious; that of the abject mother, a figure which represents the inevitable return of life to the void of the womb. The thesis concludes by demonstrating how the entire poem can be read with the character of Grendel’s mother and the battle against transience in mind, and how it complements the poem’s overall theme and structure.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Semper, Philippa
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:School of English
Subjects:PR English literature
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:1522
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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