My research has always been involved with the theory & practice of translation, and this has led me to reconsidering how established scholarly translations of Old English poetry have both shaped & constrained the way we conceive of this body of work. This has led to an extremely circumscribed view of the poetry. However, the ideas & assumptions —& yes, theories— about what these poems say & what they mean are flawed in many ways. (This argument will be expanded in the book-length project I am working upon now.)
In applying these ideas to the corpus, I came across the Exeter Book Book riddles, some 96 unique & playful voices that express a much broader range of experience than the longer & more famous poems. Many of these are quite naughty and sport in the gap between word & interpretation. Contrary to received ideas that resolving a “dirty” riddle nullifies or supercedes its deviant potential, these riddles create a situation where both terms are equally present & equally important to the experience.
Furthermore, many of these riddles are not comfortably resolved in cis-heteronormative desires or acts. They’re queer. They’re monstrous. And often, they seem to be using the structure of the riddle or enigma to discuss ideas or experiences that elude more plain expression.
So, two things to look forward to:
- A new “Exeter Book Riddles” page containing these new version as I complete them
- An upcoming explanation about Riddle 20, usually solved as “Sword.”