Medieval English Literature
Identification (5 points)
Answer five of the ten questions below. The first five correct answers are worth a point a piece. Extra Credit: each additional correct answer after the first five is worth a half point; thus 7.5 points in all are possible on this section. Your answers will generally be no longer than a sentence; often, a word or two will be sufficient to get the answer correct. Precision counts.
1) How does King Uther finally recognize Cleges?
2) In what work can you find the lines “Sum stode withouten hade, / And sum non armes nade, / And sum thurth the bodi hadde wounde, / And sum lay wode, y-bounde, / And sum armed on hors sete, / And sum astrangled as thai ete; / And sum were in water adreynt, / And sum with fire al forschreynt.”
3) In what work can you find the lines, “They wente to the courte of Rome, / And browghte the Popus bullus sone, / To wedde hys dowghter dere”?
4) In what work does a priest bless a dying werewolf?
5) In what work will you find the lines, “My lord and all his kind / will never believe me / when they hear about this bad luck; / indeed, I condemned myself / when I slandered all womenkind”?
6) What was or were the original language(s) of the following (partial credit is possible): The Romance of Tristan? The History and Topography of Ireland? Pearl?
7) List two works whose plots are set in motion by knights running out of money.
8) When Gowther fights the Saracens for three days in a row, he wears a different colored suit of armor on each successive day. What are the colors? (+0.5 if you list the colors in the correct order)
9) Who loses a nose?
10) What happens in Pearl when the Dreamer tries to cross the river?
Short Answers (7.5 points) and Short Essays (7.5 points)
Please read the instructions carefully. From the ten questions below, you must answer a minimum of three questions as short answers of two or three sentences and two questions as long answers that will each make an argument over several paragraphs. Each of the short answers is worth 2.5 points; for the long answers, each will be worth 3.75 points. Extra Credit: You may also answer up to three additional questions as short answers. Extra credit answers are worth one point each.
1) In the Song of Roland, Ganelon declares “Because of Roland I had lost gold and possessions, and it was for that reason that I set about to cause his death and his ruin. But as for treachery, I will not admit to anything of the kind” (Laisse CCLXXII). In what way is he justified in refusing to admit treachery?
2) Why does Sir Gawain and the Green Knight start with the siege of Troy?
3) Guinevere accuses Lanval of having “no interest in women. / You have fine-looking boys [Vallez avez bien afeitiez] / with whom you enjoy yourself.” Given that vows of chastity were common in the Middle Ages, why do you suppose Guinevere accuses Lanval specifically of preferring boys when he refuses to have sex with her? You may provide more than one possibility.
4) Comment on the death of Roland in Laisses CLXXIV-CLXXVII: what do these details suggest about this culture's values? Concentrate, if you like, particularly on what Roland does with his glove; ALTERNATELY: comment on the significance of the use of the possessive pronoun “our” in the first laisse of the Song of Roland.
5) The lai “Yonec” is named after a character, the son of Muldumarec (the hawkman), who barely speaks and whose primary action in the lai is to cut off his stepfather's head. Why do you suppose Marie named the lai after this character rather than his biological father or after his (unnamed) mother?
6) What would Gawain have had to do if he had been seduced by Bertilak's wife? Why do you suppose Sir Gawain and the Green Knight included this possibility?
7) Discuss the significance in Sir Orfeo of the barons' words “it is no bot of mannes deth!” (552). Here you might want to consider Orfeo's several methods of compensating for or rectifying Heurodis's disappearance.
8) Tristan and Iseult have numerous opportunities to lie in the Romance of Tristan, yet they prefer to tell half-truths. Hypothesize about why they don't tell outright lies, preferably by reference to a particular half-truth (e.g., “I swear that no man ever came between my thighs except the leper who carried me on his back across the ford and my husband, King Mark” (section 15, 142)).
9) Comment on the significance of Gowther's refusal to give up his falchion.
10) Pearl uses the language of courtly love several times to describe the pearl (“so slender her sides, so smooth they were” (5); “the slender one, so smooth, so small” (189); “Such beauty in nature never was known; / Pygmalion never painted your eyes” (751-52): note: Pygmalion was a legendary sculptor who made a statue so beautiful that he fell in love with it. The gods took pity on him and brought the statue to life). Comment on the significance of erotic language in this religious poem.