This would be a possible question for the second part of the exam.
“In the beginning of the semester we discussed the necessity of keeping opinion and presumptions out of our study of medieval texts. After a semester of reading and assessing the merit of the texts, would you say it is possible or impossible to keep modern perspective out and remain unbiased? How so?”
Possible question for Part 1:
Define the term conduct texts and explain their purpose in collections such as Ashmole 61. Were these kinds of texts actually valuable to the reader? Or did they merely outline ideal behavior?
This question is for the second part of the exam.
This semester we’ve been looking at romance as a literary genre. What can the romances of Ashmole 61 reveal about its audience and culture?
Knowing people do not have to be born into the Gentry, how easily do you think that this is done? Is it easier for men or women? What obstacles do you think they face in the transition? (Keep in mind the different socio-economic factors that define this group)
possible question for part 1:
While other texts in Ashmole 61 incorporate some elements of the supernatural into the plot, the themes in Sir Orfeo seem to rely heavily on the existence of the Faery Kingdom. How does this magical realm and its characters function in the romance? What purpose does it serve?
This would be a question for the second portion of the exam:
How were the lives of men and women different in the Middle Ages? Did there seem to be a double standard or were men favored more often than women? Or is this a questions one that cannot be answered due to our own modern views?
Title: Food and the Construction and Maintenance of Identity in “Sir Cleges”
I want to explore how identities are constructed and maintained around food in “Sir Cleges”. Because this poem is about gain and loss through the gift of food, it lends itself to an investigation of historical significance of fasting and feasting, food and the community, and food as justification and challenge to the status quo. Also, I want to discuss the significance of “luxury food” as defined by Van Der Veen. The holy cherries that appear near the end of the story are indicative of the supernatural powers at work as well as the power of luxury food. Another point for my essay will highlight the importance of restoring material wealth, how Sir Cleges and his wife employ charitable acts through food giving, the loss of power, and the restoration of material wealth as a necessity for the continuity of extravagant communal feasting. Aside from the obvious exterior status qualifiers of identity, I am unsure where my argument will go next to further capture identity construction. One potential option is using some of my secondary sources to get a better understanding of identity and ritual as suggested in Susan Crane’s The Performance of Self: Ritual Clothing, and Identity During the Hundred Years War. If length will allow, then I will explore the function of food and identity construction in “Dietary” and other Ashmole texts such as “How the Good Wife Taught Her Daughter” and “Debate of the Carpenter’s tools”. This method is not how I usually begin my writing process; subsequently, I am unsure of the extent to which my topic will enable me to meet the length requirement.
I have found that as an English major I am particularly sensitive to other people’s grammar. This was sent to me by a friend. I figured we could all use a laugh right about now.
While entertaining and to some extent educational, “The Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools” holds a curious place in Ashmole 61; in fact, between various romances and more traditional conduct texts, it doesn’t seem to fit at all. The editors notes add to the curiousness of the work: with the mention of craft guilds, the question remains of why the text exists in a manuscript meant for the gentry. I believe, however, that Rate put the poem in its position with a purpose. Bringing this purpose to light will be my goal. To accomplish this, I will focus on two offshoots of the poems: first, I will explore craft guilds, and women’s participation in them; secondly, I will look at the patriarchy as it existed in all forms in medieval England. The first part of my research will help me position the Carpenter’s wife in the poem; women, however out of character it may seem, were figures in these guilds, and these guilds were important functioning economic units. The second part of my research is important because the patriarchy extends throughout all medieval English society, including said craft guilds. Taking into account all these things, I believe “The Debate” gives us insight into the breakdown of the patriarchal system, and works in Ashmole 61 to give the reader a more complete and realistic sense of applying the behavioral lessons learned in the romances and other conduct texts.
Religion’s Contribution to Patriarchy in Middle English Literature
I will be taking a socio-historical approach in which I analyze religion’s influence on the negative views of women and on the support of patriarchy in three Ashmole-61 texts: “Sir Corneus”, “The Jealous Wife” and “Sir Cleges”.
Since Eve corrupted Adam, and religion is such an important part of Middle English culture, it is likely that people held onto the idea of women being corrupted by the devil to tempt men towards sin. This use of a woman by the Devil can be seen in the “Jealous Wife”, where the wife is tricked into despair over a husband who she believes to be unfaithful. I would also like to point that this may have transitioned into a generally accepted view of women being conniving or bad, in order to connect it to texts such as “Sir Corneus”. Here, the woman is not tricked by the devil, but she still holds an extremely negative role which is likely influenced by the religion of the time.
Man played a huge role in creating and distributing religious icons, texts, images, etc. One of my sources recalls that the image of Mary and Christ as equals changed to Mary below Christ in the picture. I would like to point out that this alteration is another instance in which religion supports the patriarchy of the time.
I am worried that in this argument, I will fall away from analyzing the text and focus too much on areas in which religion shows a women in a stereotypical, male dominated environment. I will have to be selective in my examples and be sure to connect them to the texts.