Tentative reading list for research about gaze dynamics in early medieval literature and culture…

I haven’t found a source that deals specifically with Old English literature.



THe only exception so far is Waugh’s (2011)  that deals with “ongitan” but leaves out other verbs of seeing (especially the Modthryth episode! even though tthe importance of gazing and looking the female body in Beowulf is stressed)

Waugh, Robin. “Ongitan and the possibility of oral seeing in Beowulf.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 53.3 (2011): 338-351. < >

and Jordan (2009) that theorizes about gaze dynamics and the possibility of resistance to the male gaze (showing how Mulvey’s approach did not take into account the possibility of ‘looking back’ from object (female) to subject (male) and how phallic women are, in reality, women who stare back.

Jordan, Jessica Hope. “Women Refusing the Gaze: Theorizing Thryth’s “Unqueenly Custom” in Beowulf and The Bride’s Revenge in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Volume I.” The Heroic Age: A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe 9 (2006).

but, importantly, Jordan’s omits any reference to the difference in gaze dynamics between modern and premodern texts and narratives. It is interesting yet it raises several questions as to how we can traspose this gaze theory to the pre-modern context, and especially the early middle ages. Is the dynamic the same? Can we assume the same flow of desire and power?

TO question how valid is it to analyse pre-modern texts through the lense of male gaze as analyzed by Mulvey when they only take into account into the formulation of the gaze half of Lacan’s gaze theory and Foucault’s precepts of the Eye of Power of the body as spectacle taking as a base structures and from 18th century onwards and the importance of visuality of the modern era

Stanbury (1997) comes handy, although it deals with Chaucer’s context and hence not with early medieval texts and does not consider pagan texts (Can we take Christ’s body visibility and central role as a defining point in gaze dynamics in Old English literature, especially in Beowulf?)

Stanbury, Sarah. “Regimes of the visual in premodern England: Gaze, body, and Chaucer’s Clerk’s Tale.” New Literary History 28.2 (1997): 261-289.


Motherhood and Mothering in Anglo-Saxon England

Part of the series The New Middle Ages pp 77-115 The Mothers of Beowulf “Mary Dockray-Miller




Alain Renoir

Neuphilologische Mitteilungen

Vol. 63, No. 3 (1962), pp. 154-167

Published by: Modern Language Society

Stable URL:

Page Count: 14



Writing Gender and Genre in Medieval Literature: Approaches to Old and …

Elaine M. Treharne,English Association [google books]

Before History, Before Difference: Bodies, Metaphor, and the Church in Anglo-Saxon England

Gillian R. OveringClare A. Lees

From: The Yale Journal of Criticism
Volume 11, Number 2, Fall 1998
pp. 315-334

Christine B. Thijs, ‘Feminine Heroism in the Old English Judith’, Leeds Studies in English, n.s. 37 (2006), 41-62
The Mirror of the Self: Sexuality, Self-knowledge, and the Gaze in the Early Roman Empire Shadi Bartsch [google books]



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