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Updated on:
11/20/16

 

ENGLISH 201: MAJOR BRITISH AUTHORS

NOTES

Resources for further study.

General Resources: Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (Ref PN 1021.n39); Middle English Dictionary (PE 679.M62); Oxford Companion to English Lit (PR19 .D73 1985b); and the comprehensive On-line Reference Book for Medieval Studies, for which click here. And here is a bibliography of medieval symbolism.

James Harner, Literary research guide : a guide to reference sources for the study of literatures in English and related topics. 4th Edition. (New York : Modern Language Association of America, 2002). Du Bois Library, Reference Z 2011 .H34 1993.

Here's a very good article on courtly love: Jill Mann, “Falling in Love in the Middle Ages.”


1.I.16. Midterm Paper. Due in class with Midterm exam. Hand both in together. Topics here.

FINAL PAPER (16.November.2016). Due 21 December 2016 by 4 pm. You have two big options: a creative project or a standard English paper. Your options are described below.

Creative Project


This project will demonstrate your intense and careful thought about one particular poem. The focus is style. Do not be led astray by big ideas, broad themes, or general thoughts. Do not write about heroes.

1. Pick a short section of one of the poems.
2. Reinterpret it in another style, another medium, another art form, another language, with images, with sound, and so on.
3. Write 5 to 7 pages on why you interpreted as you did. Be very, very specific.
 

You must have permission from me by 18 November. I will not accept a project that has not been cleared.

OR

Standard Paper

The three variants of the paper are based on how much help you get from the directions. The first is a step-by-step guide to writing the final paper. Because of that, you can't earn as much as if you did it all yourself.

1. Variant One. Maximum grade is a C+. 10 to 12 pages. Topic is below, under "Paper Topics: Variant One"

2. Variant Two. Maximum grade is a B+. Follow the intricate directions of this linked sheet and produce a final paper. 10 to 15 pages.

3. Variant Three. Maximum grade is an A+. Pick a topic from the relevant list below. 12 to 15 pages.

Paper Topic: Variant One

This paper compares the first half of Beowulf to the second half. The first half ends when Beowulf leaves Hrothgar's land.

    1) Look for parallels between the first half and the second half. Make a list.
    2) Put your list into categories (like objects, characters, settings, plot devices, and so forth). For example, there is a funeral in the first half and a funeral in the second half; Beowulf's sword breaks in the first half, and his sword breaks in the second half.
    3) Do not write an introductory paragraph, propose a thesis, or offer a conclusion.
    4) Describe the parallels. Complete one category before you go on to the next one.
    5) Read your paper aloud. Make sure each sentence can be understood by someone else.


Paper Topics: Variant Three

1. Style versus Substance. In Book Two of Paradise Lost, Milton says that Belial's speech is "cloth'd in reason's garb" (226). Milton employs a number of metaphors of covering or clothing, and even has one devil claim that God's glory can be clothed in darkness. Milton is distinguishing between appearance and substance, between the style of a speech and its truth claims. With their rhetorical tricks (their style, as it were), the demons can make darkness appear to be light, baseness appear to be loftiness, and Hell appear to be Heaven.

In your paper, find ways that the metaphor of covering, or of false appearances, or of outside-versus-inside explores the relationship between truth and fiction. Please distinguish between simile, metaphor, and metonymy. You need come to no conclusion.

2. The Substance of Style. Rhyme, verse form, and meter contribute to the overall effect of a poem. In Herbert's "The Pulley," a lack of feet in the first stanza, an abundance of feet in the second stanza, and a balance of feet in the fourth contribute impressionalistically to the poem's larger claims about balance and rest. Assonance and initial conjunctions imply syntactic dependence, which in turn speaks to the dependence of the reader on divine rest.

In your paper, describe how the form of a poem (verse form, meter, rhyme, sound, etc.) contributes to one of its themes. Choose specific examples. Concentrate on one poem only (not "The Pulley").

3. War. Many of the poems we have read, especially Chaucer's Knight's Tale, depict men and women at war. Whether it is Beowulf at war with mostrous forces, the English at war with vikings, Milton's demons at war with angels, or a war between opposing forces in the mind of a character—conflict is at the heart of much English poetry. In your paper, explore how conflict works a single poem. Which characters are in conflict? Are settings in conflict? Are motives in conflict? Most importantly, how are those conflicts portrayed? Does the author use colors, sounds, verse structure, rhyme, or any other device to make you feel the conflict as well as read it?

4. Character.Some characters in medieval poetry seem flat (like Beowulf or the Lanval's Queen of Fairy), and some multi-dimensional (like the Wife of Bath). But few seem actually to change significantly during a work.

In your paper, explore how character works in a single poem. What are the minimum requirements for a character (how little do we have to know of a character to imagine him/her)? How do we know what a character is meant to invoke (e.g., evil, envy, confusion, doubt)? Be specific and use evidence to back up each claim. Try to establish what words and phrases tell you about a particular character. Concentrate on one work only.

5. Symbol. Part of Paradise Lost concerns Adam's relationship to Eve before and after the Fall. What implications are there for that relationship if we interpret Eve as a symbol of women? What implications are there if we interpret Eve as a symbol of mothers?What implications are there if we interpret Eve as a symbol of practical reason? Finally, which interpretation seems to make most sense of the rest of the story in Book Eight?

6. Three Styles. We spoke about three major styles of writing and reading. The appositive style of Old English, the allegorical style of Middle English, and the associative style of the Renaissance. In your paper, take a very short passage from one of our poems and interpret it in each of the three styles. For your conclusion, try to discover what changed for you when you read the poem in three different ways.