Medieval Creative Writing

Write a 5-6 page, double-spaced essay (word count @ 1250-1650) responding to one of the prompts below. Note that four of these are prompts for critical assignments, and two for more creative writings. Your paper should be based on a close engagement with the text under consideration, and you should cite specific words from the text by line number (no need for page numbers unless you are citing something from the informational headers or introductions, and in these cases simply city by page number in parentheses rather than footnotes). Avoid generalizations (“Since the dawn of time…”, “Medieval man loved to talk about animals…”), give your paper a snappy and meaningful title (not “Monsters in Beowulf”), and aim for an argument or creative approach based closely on what the text in front of you actually says. Your paper should be free of all spelling, grammatical, and proofreading errors. 

  1. In lines 713-725 of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the poet skips over Gawain’s encounters with various beasts as Gawain travels to find the Green Knight. What issues does the poet focus on instead? What does this say about the nature of Gawain’s quest or his role as a hero?
  2. Choose a short passage (10-12 lines maximum) from Beowulf or Gawain where you see significant use of alliteration, appositives, and/or kennings. Do a close reading of the language in relation to the larger ideas or themes in the poem (hybridity, honor, the materiality of language, and so on). Alternatively, choose a bob and wheel from Gawain. How does the poet use this space in relation to the stanzas before and after? Does it reiterate or synthesize certain parts of the preceding stanza? Does it offer an additional explanation, gloss, or opinion not found in the preceding stanza? On the other hand, does it prefigure the turn into the next stanza? Be sure to draw on comparisons to how other bob and wheels in the poem are used, and be sure to choose a bob and wheel that has implications for the larger themes of the poem.
  3. Drawing on one work we have read this semester, make an argument about the significance of an encounter between a male hero and a mysterious, other-worldly, or monstrous female figure. What does the encounter tell us about the genre, the work as a whole, gender roles, etc.? What techniques does the poet use to convey the nature of the encounter? Your argument should draw on a close reading of specific passages from the text under consideration.  (Look at other prompts to see the readings we have done in class this far.)
  4. Choose one or two of the elaborate descriptions of clothing and/or armor in Beowulf, Lanval, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or the Canterbury Tales and close read the passage(s). What does clothing tell the reader about human identity? What ambiguities about characters’ identities are explored through clothing or armor, and what social conflicts might such outward displays bring to the reader’s attention? Be specific!
  5. Write an extended passage of alliterative-accentual verse (at least three single-spaced pages, approximately 150 lines), on the formal model of Beowulf (stichich) or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (stanzaic). Your creation may be on any theme, whether medieval or contemporary, but it must carefully follow the form and conventions of its medieval model, with four beats per line (at least three of them alliterating). If you choose to follow the model of Sir Gawain, you’ll need to write in stanzas, complete with bob and wheel. Attach to your passage a self-analysis of at least two double-spaced pages that describes in specific detail the challenges you faced, what you wanted to achieve and how you went about it, etc. This part of the assignment should contain quoted language from the original text.

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