Monday, December 22, 2008

Stonehedge!, Or, Ye Shul it lerne wher so ye wole or noon.

by KARL STEEL

It's once again the most glorious time of the year: exam time! In a tradition much beloved by me, I'm posting my final exam, as it's finally safe to do so. The interminable CUNY semester ends this week, and today my grads and undergrads turned in their final papers, and the undergrads took their final exam, which covered The Romance of Arthur, The Complete Works of Hartmann von Aue [if your syllabus doesn't have "Poor Heinrich" on it, you are seriously missing out] and Aucassin and Nicolette. Even as I write this post, they're industriously writing, trying to answer the following questions:

Part 1: Identification and Short Answer (answer 5. Each correct answer is worth 2 points. Partial credit is possible. Extra Credit: Each additional question answered correctly is worth .5 points. Partial credit is possible.)
1.In the following quotation, who is the man? Who is the woman? “When he had heard what she told him, he said, 'Enough of that.' He immediately ordered her to get up, dress well, and to put on the best garment she had....He armed himself secretly and wore his armor hidden under his clothes. ”

2.Towards the end of "Poor Heinrich," Jesus “freed them both from all their suffering.” Clearly Hartmann means that Jesus cured Heinrich of his leprosy, but who is the other character he frees from suffering, and what was the character suffering?

3.What is ironic about Arthur's defense of Iseult when she is accused of adultery?

4.In what work is a king giving birth while a food fight rages outside his castle?

5.List two knights who live in the forest for a while and are helped by hermits.

6.This medieval image to the left illustrates a scene from which work we read this semester?

7.What does Gawain wear for the rest of his life as “a token of the untruthfulness that trapped me”?

8.What is so tragic about Lancelot killing Gaheris and Gareth?

9.Who rescues his beloved lady from a group of lusty lepers?

10.This medieval image to the left illustrates a scene from which work we read this semester?


Part 2: Essay Questions (choose 2 of the 6 questions below and answer the question. Most good answers will be about 3-5 pages long. Each answer will be graded as follows: 1 pnt: grammar; 2 pnts: structure and argument: do you have an argument? Is your essay ordered logically (that is, could I rearrange the paragraphs without affecting the build-up of your argument?); 2 pnts: evidence: have you supported your argument sufficiently by reference to the text and by making points that make sense logically?)
1.Iwein fights and defeats a giant, Harpin, who is also a knight (Hartmann, Iwein, 284, 289-90). In what other ways is the giant like Iwein, and what is the significance of this resemblance? You may wish to concentrate on the transformations Iwein undergoes through Iwein. [extra credit if you can identify whose argument I'm plagiarizing here and your name isn't Jeffrey Cohen]

2.When Iwein hears the story of the women forced to make clothing, they say “We are the tribute and we have a terrible life, a miserable youth, for those to whom we are subject are terribly corrupt, refusing to let us keep any profit at all from our work” (303). They are vague about whom they are subject to: what is the significance in their refusal to identify whether the demons or the nobles are responsible for their terrible condition?

3.The “Green Chapel” in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in fact is a rough hill with three holes in it (IV.2180: note that your edition mistranslates the line). It resembles an entrance to the “Otherworld,” the land of magic and good and bad spirits, but in having three entrances, it also resembles a Christian Cathedral. Bertilak's full name is “Bertilak de Haudesert”: desert can mean either a scary wilderness or the holy wilderness where hermits live. Why does the poem mix Christian and dubiously Christian, even demonic, symbols in this scene?

4.Wace tells the story of Merlin's paternity quite briefly (97), but Robert of Boron includes a great many more details, including a story of Merlin's youth in which he defends his mother from the charge of adultery. Why do you suppose Robert of Boron changed the earlier story of Merlin?

5.The Romans are Arthur's enemies in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain. They are foreign, as their army partly comprises Libyans and Saracens (87-88). Yet Arthur married a woman who is partly Roman (71-72) and is himself descended from Trojans (see the reference to “the ancient custom of Troy” at 76), and, moreover, Caerleon looks like Rome (74). Why did Geoffrey simultaneously represent Arthur's Roman enemies as so foreign while stressing the many connections between Arthur and Rome?

6.Why does Beroul so often go out of his way to tell us how little he likes the barons (234, for example) and/or the dwarf (231 and 234)?

Good luck! You have 2 hours. Open book. Open note. I notice that at least 3 of my 15 students didn't bring their books. What gives?

If that grabbed you, perhaps you want to take the extra credit quiz, which I sprang on them on the antepenultimate day in answer to a worried question, "Do you offer any extra credit?" I guess I do...so long as the students have done the reading and show up on time. In other words, so long as they've been doing the things that wouldn't make extra credit necessary, they should do well on the extra credit. Funny, that.
  • What does Guinevere do when Mordred tries to marry her? (2 points)
  • In what work we read this semester is there a character who imagines God as being a rich peasant who oversees a pleasant farm?
  • Who waits to see a ship with either white or black sails? (1 point)
  • On the map of Britain, identify the locations of England, Wales, and Cornwall. (2 points, partial credit possible) [what I learned from this? My rough-hewn, duckshaped board-drawn maps just don't cut it. Either that, or Cornwall = Scotland]
  • What is this set of stones called? (1 point) [What I learned from this? Although I decided to make the quiz open book 2 minutes into it, although the question is a gimme because there's a picture of Stonehenge in The Romance of Arthur, students are no better spellers than I am. How many wrote "Stonehedge"? A lot. "Stonehedge, where the demons edge, and the banshees trim, and they do trim well..."
  • This medieval picture illustrates a scene from which medieval romance? (1 point)

6 comments:

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Answers below.

1. Man = Tiny Shriner. Woman = Eileen Joy. Bonus: location = under under the floorboards of the Burberry's on Connecticut Avenue, near DeSales Street, in Washington, DC.

2. The other character is the reader. Like all readers, this one was suffering from end of the semester fatigue. The cure did not work.

3. What is ironic is that Arthur's favorite song at the time was Alanis Morissette's "Ironic." The double irony is that the song is about bummers rather than ironies. Also it shows how out of date Arthur was. It's a black fly in his Chardonnay.

4. I believe this is a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The food fight involved a flying cow.

5. Please. List two knights who DON'T live in a forest and who are NOT helped by hermits. Now that would be a tough question.

6. I think this is from the children's version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It's the scene where Lady Bertilak asks Gawain to get on all fours like a dog and ride a giant sword. She brings her own lion whelps with her for their entertainment and mocks him all the while. A tower with crowned heads looms in the background. An unrelated scene unfolds nearby involving a knight saying "Yada yada yada" about something.

7. A small thong that makes him uncomfortable whenever he jousts.

8. Lancelot killing the G Brothers is tragic because the death of any man diminishes him, for he is a part of mankind. Also this is a double death so he is doubly diminished.

9. The Lusty Lepers were a 1950s a cappella group, most famous for a series of top 40 ditties where they would pun on love and falling apart in various non-PC ways. This is a trick question.

10. Again this is a scene from a children's book. I think this is the chapter in Beowulf where Grendel's severed arm, having been discarded in a puddle, comes back to life and attempts to stab a distracted Hrothgar. A truncated knight picks pears from a bonsai tree nearby.

I believe that I have done so well on Part I that I will skip the essay questions. Thank you, Professor, for an excellent semester. I hope you have a happy holiday.

Karl Steel said...

Oh, that's funny. And funny. And funny. I consider this a bad omen for the exam grading, which begins today on the Jersey train.

Hilariously (?), I just dreamt that I finished the semester by throwing the coursetext down and screaming "you all suck!" And, in the dream itself, I thought: too bad you already did your evaluations of me! Haha!

Somehow I feel as though my dream presaged your funny and your eerie, pitch perfect "Thank you, Professor, for an excellent semester. I hope you have a happy holiday." <-- gives me the chills, that does

[note to any students: my waking self doesn't actually think you suck. I think we can safely call it a grading anxiety dream]

hd said...

Dear Karl,
When answering one of the essay questions on my final exam in Medieval Drama, a student repeatedly invoked the "veal of truth."

thought you would appreciate that as much as i did.

happy, merry, etc.!
hd

Rick Godden said...

Karl, I sincerely hope you showed Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge" in class.

Karl Steel said...

HD, I love it.

And, Rick, I've tried making Spinal Tap jokes in class before, both at BC and, earlier, at Barnard. Kids these days! No one got it, not even your basic 'goes to 11' joke...

So, if only!

Karl Steel said...

Just finished grading the exams.

When Iwein hears the story of the women forced to make clothing, they say “We are the tribute and we have a terrible life, a miserable youth, for those to whom we are subject are terribly corrupt, refusing to let us keep any profit at all from our work” (303). They are vague about whom they are subject to: what is the significance in their refusal to identify whether the demons or the nobles are responsible for their terrible condition?

I encountered a depressingly common bad answer to this question, which says something about the current economic climate, or the bad jobs my students have, or their bad bosses. Several students (4 maybe?), forgetting or ignoring the fact that the workers are both noble AND trapped in this work as tribute, argued that the workers, being poor, don't speak up because they're afraid of losing their job, no matter how badly it pays.

Ouch. Welcome to Brooklyn....
(maybe 4 different exams)