Thursday, September 4, 2014

suggested beowulf essay topics

Here is a list of the essay topics you created based on your careful reading of previous AP essay prompts, your analysis of the text and a brief lecture, and your imaginative collaboration in yesterday's conversations.  Please provide feedback in the comments, we'll decide on one (or a combination) by Friday.

  • Using Beowulf as an example, explain the definition of an epic.  Include an analysis of theme, historical context/background, and language.
  • Do Beowulf's character traits truly embody the ideal hero?  Is there anything lacking in his character?
  • How do modern representations of honorable heroes differ from the ideal portrayed in Beowulf?
  • How would Beowulf and its protagonist be perceived by modern readers?
  • Is Beowulf's extreme desire to vanquish his enemies a positive or negative attribute?
  • Is the static character of Beowulf a signal that it lacks realism or reinforces ideals?
  • When does confidence become arrogance? 
  • Why do we strive for honor?
  • What does Grendel's character reveal about what society perceives as evil?
  • How do gender roles in Beowulf compare with those of other great works?  Select one or two of "comparable literary merit" and compare.
  • How does Beowulf's view of honor compare with that of other heroes? 
  • Compare and contrast Beowulf's character with that of Odysseus.  What can you infer about the societies from which they came?
  • Analyze the structure and literary techniques in Beowulf that portray the deeper meanings of the text.
  • How do Beowulf's acts of heroism create and/or confirm his fate?
  • What qualities distinguish Beowulf as a hero, in comparison to a "mere mortal" or a god?
  • Are Beowulf's superhuman qualities a reflection of the author's/public's aspirations?
  • How are external forces such as fate or God represented in Beowulf?
  • Is Beowulf a static or dynamic character?  How does his consistency and/or development define him as a hero?
  • Select a modern text that may be regarded as an epic in our culture.  How is it similar to or different from Beowulf?
  • How does Beowulf's setting influence the plot?
  • What makes Beowulf the Original Hero?  Why has this story endured for so long?
  • How would Beowulf be different if it were told from a feminist perspective?
  • Is Beowulf's confidence cocky or arrogant?  Is this an objective character trait, or is seeing this as a positive/negative really just a subjective judgement of his/our culture?
  • How has society's standard of what makes a hero changed over time?  Is it easier or harder to be a hero today?
  • How does Beowulf fit Joseph Campbell's idea of the monomyth?
  • Describe the main theme/s of Beowulf and explain the literary techniques that portray these ideas.
  • In what ways do Beowulf's weaknesses make him a hero?

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