Tolkien and the Medieval Imagination

Tolkien and the Medieval Imagination

Fall 2020

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Second Paper Topic


Write on the following, paying close attention to all components of the question, clearly documenting all uses of and references to texts and ideas.  The paper should be no more than 3000 words, typed, double spaced, not including references.  The paper must show mastery of at least five references, two of which must be hard copy.  All pages except the first should be numbered.  The first draft is due on or before Friday, 18 October, at 5:00 p.m.  Please remember, this draft is not optional.  It must be submitted as a Microsoft Word attachment to


At Beowulf, ll. 2631ff., the poet writes


For him then the Geatish lords a  pyre prepared upon the earth, not niggardly, with helms o’erhung and shields of war and corslets shining, as his prayer had been . . . Then upon the hill warriors began the mightiest of funeral fires to waken.  Woodsmoke mounted black above the burning, a roaring flame ringed with weeping, till the swirling wind sank quiet, and the body’s bony house was crumbled in the blazing . . .(Beowulf, p. 104)


How does this passage reinforce Tolkien’s claim “Beowulf is not an ‘epic’, not even a magnified ‘lay’ . . . if we must have a term, we should choose rather ‘elegy’?”(Monsters & Critics, p. 31)  Why, given Tolkien’s interpretation, would a Christian poet depict a pagan burial ritual?  Would such a ritual be appropriate for the character Pearl in Pearl?


The final, revised, version of the paper is due Monday, 26 October, 5:00 p.m. as an email attachment to me.



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