Objective … to move beyond the visceral, sensational appeal of the Beowulf poem and recognize its primeval resonance by conducting peripheral research and applying your findings to a written analysis of the work

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Beowulf: Echoes of the Anglo-Saxons

Mini-Research Project & Essay



… to move beyond the visceral, sensational appeal of the Beowulf poem and recognize its primeval resonance by conducting peripheral research and applying your findings to a written analysis of the work. (Now THAT’S a mouthful!)

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The essay

Your essay must centralize on the following theme in any way you see fit. Incorporate findings from your mini-research project and outside criticism in your analysis.


  • 2,000 word minimum

  • Typed (or if disaster strikes, handwritten neatly in ink)

  • Adhere to MLA formatting guidelines (But I do like cover pages! )

  • Adhere to MLA citation guidelines

  
The mini-research project

Please note that this is very INFORMAL research! You are simply exploring options to support the theme above. On the following pages you will find a list of research directives. In addition to any specific guidelines provided in each directive, you must provide a HANDOUT of SOURCES, written in MLA format, to your classmates. This way, every presentation provides the class with more resources with which to develop the essay.
Guidelines and Grading

  • All sources must be valid and authoritative.

  • Your presentation should be clear and relevant to your chosen directive.

  • Be prepared to discuss the explicit or implicit connections between your research, Beowulf, and myth in general.

  • If your presentation is lecture-based, it should approximately 3-5 minutes long. If it is discussion based, it should be approximately 10-15 minutes long.

_____ / 10 Product or discussion as specified in directive

_____ / 10 Handout/ source list

_____/ 10 Demonstration of expertise in subject area

_____/ 10 Clear connection to some aspect of Beowulf

_____/ 10 Evidence of creativity and effort

  

Research Options

(Most of these can be researched online.)

  1. Create a PowerPoint slide show (with notes of explanation) of Sutton Hoo artifacts and their significance in Anglo-Saxon culture.

  2. Research “bog people”. (Yes, they exist, I swear!) In a visual presentation, explore possible connections between real-life bog people and Grendel.

  3. Create a GoogleEarth map of Beowulf’s journey into England and Denmark. Layer related images on significant landmarks. Use the SmartBoard to conduct your presentation. (Alternative media also eligible.)

  4. Do comparative research on Norse mythology and Christianity. How do these religions intersect? Present your findings on an overhead transparency, handout, or poster.

  5. Research the history of the Beowulf manuscript. Lecture on some of the highlights of its history and on the controversies of its date of publication. Visual aids optional.

  6. Research the history of bears in Scandinavian lore (and the etymology of Beowulf’s name). How does this perception of bears influence Beowulf? How are bears perceived by other cultures?

  7. Research the history (including modern reports) of feral “wolf-children”. What do their stories reveal about the effects of social structure? Conduct a reading circle with excerpts of news articles, making thematic connections to Grendel.

  8. Research the appearance of dragons in literature. How do dragons act as an archetype? Bring in film clips to reinforce the roles and characteristics of dragons.

  9. Research “things that go bump in the night”. Look into children’s stories, folklore, etc. How do they connect to Grendel? Why does a Grendel figure resonate across cultures? Bring in illustrations, children’s stories, etc.

  1. Research climate, politics, economics, and anthropology in northern Europe, circa 800 – 1100 A.D. Create an interactive map highlighting some basic figures and features of the period and the region.

  2. Research the construction of a Scandinavian hall. Construct a scaled model of Heorot and present it to the class.

  3. Research the history of the oral tradition and the evolving roles of storytellers. Demonstrate your expertise through a performance-based lesson in which you recite passages from Beowulf and other, later works, following the appropriate style for the genre and era. Consider Scandinavian and Germanic sagas.

  4. Research early Christianity in the British Isles and Scandinavia. How did the cultures interact? (Be sure to check out Vikings! So much fun, all that raiding and pillaging. ) How did Christianity spread? Lecture with a map, Google Earth, or other visual aid.

  5. Find parallels between Beowulf and J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lecture on your findings; bring in excerpts from Tolkein’s works. (You may also bring in film clips if you wish.)

  6. Research cannibalism in history and in contemporary society. Compare and contrast the treatment of it with the way it is presented in Beowulf. Lead a discussion with visual aids or clippings from newspapers/magazines.

  7. In both Beowulf and The Hobbit, the dragon dreams. Research Freud’s writings on dreams. Present findings in a handout to the class and lead a discussion: what are the implications for the dragon? Does his role change when viewed through a Freudian lens?

  8. Tolkein famously defended Beowulf as art and incorporated it into his own writings. Research Tolkein’s biography (particularly his experiences in World War I) and present to class. Lead a discussion on why Beowulf would have so much personal significance for him.

  9. Research other mythological monsters. How do they function as archetypes? How do they compare/contrast with the monsters in Beowulf?

  10. Research movie reviews of the 2007 film Beowulf. Then host an Ebert-and-Roeper style movie talk, analyzing key clips from the film.

  11. Beowulf is an elegiac poem, not an epic one. Research elegies in poetry and music. (Start with John Donne.) Present some of them to the class. How does Beowulf parallel these elegies?

  12. Research phallic and female symbols in art and literature. How do they function in Beowulf and elsewhere? Provide APPROPRIATE visual aids!

  13. Research the warrior ethic in Ancient Greece, the Dark Ages, and the Middle Ages. What is warrior’s code over time? How is this evident in Beowulf? Lecture with Power Point.

  14. Research the symbolic significance of numbers. How do these influence Beowulf?

  15. Research “smack talk” (fluting or signifying) in Germanic, Ancient Greek, African, and African-American culture and literature. Identify key characteristics, then perform a one-person “yo’ mama” show to demonstrate these features.

  16. Research taboos in various cultures. Lecture, then reinvent and lead the Taboo game.

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