Epic, Romance, and the Love of God: Medieval France and England
All written assignments are to be typed, double-spaced,
and submitted on time. Specific references to literary
texts and historical facts should be used to support all
Below are suggested topics. Pick one for each paper.
If you have another idea (or ideas) that you'd like to
pursue, see me to discuss approaches.
- Describe and explain some similar key values of the
cultures that produced and cultivated the Beowulf epic
and the Song of Roland. Show how these values are
expressed, represented, and endorsed in our versions of
the stories. (You may want to treat negative values as
well, but they should be secondary.)
- Comment on the elements (both similar and different)
of poetic form and content at work in the Beowulf epic
and the Song of Roland, and explain the effects of these
elements in the poems. Make sure you choose specific
passages to illustrate your understanding and opinions.
- Given that these two poems were written down
centuries after the events they describe (and almost
certainly a long time after they were first told)
what are the recording societys' views of their pasts?
How can you tell? How do these views bear on the
societys' present ages? What do these views tell us
about the realities of those recording eras? (All given
the potentially erroneous assumption that the poems and
"authors" are representative of their respective
- In light of Chretien's Arthurian romances, his
re-telling of tales of "aventure," explain how
the following elements of romance differ from or are
similar to those in the epic of Beowulf and the Song of
Roland: the role of the protagonist; his relationships
with his peers and superiors; the roles of women; the
narrative current; nature; verisimilitude; the self.
(Pick at least three.)
- Given what you know about the composition and
performance of medieval epic, what can you infer about
the author(s) and audience of romance? Are the two
contexts necessarily different? How can you tell? In
forming your response, you might also want to consider
what might be the appeal of la matiere de
bretagne for the 12th- and 13th-century French.
- In the Wife of Bath's Tale and The Book of the
Duke of True Lovers we see romance turned inside-out.
Comment on these works' major deviations from the
traditonal genre, and explain their effects.
- "In the high and later medieval France and England,
how did the teachings and institutions of the Church
affect both the ways people lived their lives and the
ways they understood their lives?" Respond to this
question using both literary and historical texts.
- "[There was a] general change of attitude which
found expression in many different ways. Briefly, we
find less talk of life as an exercise in endurance, and
of death in a hopeless cause; and we hear more of life
as a seeking and a journeying." (R. W. Southern, The
Making of the Middle Ages [New Haven: Yale UP, 1953]
Explore this statement in the context of
this course as a whole.
- Alternatives to
Useful Medieval Links |
Electronic Reference Shelf |
Epic, Romance, and the Love of God