Middle English literature is the written material that flourished in England during the four centuries after the Norman Conquest of 1066 This period is also known as the Middle Ages, or the medieval period. It is the foundation of what is considered “English literature” today, and includes many of the most important and influential works in history such as The Canterbury Tales and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Middle English literature was a vibrant and creative period in which authors from a variety of backgrounds explored ideas from many different perspectives.
Essay topics related to Middle English literature often focus on the themes, literary devices, and authors from this period. Here are five of the best essay topics related to Middle English literature:
1. The Role of Religion in Middle English Literature: Religion was a powerful and pervasive force during the Middle Ages, and many of the most popular works of this period reflect this influence. This essay topic could explore how religious themes, symbols, and characters are utilized in works such as The Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and other works from this period.
2. A Comparison of Arthurian Romance in Middle English: Arthurian romance was a popular literary topic during the Middle Ages, and the works of Sir Thomas Malory, Marie de France, and Geoffrey Chaucer all offer a variety of different perspectives on this popular legend. This essay topic could explore how these authors use their own unique writing styles to portray different aspects of the Arthur legend.
3. The Role of Women in Middle English Literature: Though women were often depicted as secondary characters in many works from this period, there are a few authors who transcended this stereotype and created very powerful female characters. This essay topic could explore how these authors used themes of female power and agency in works such as The Book of Margery Kempe, Troilus and Criseyde, and The Lay of the Werewolf.
4. The Relevance of Middle English Literature Today: Though the Middle Ages may seem far removed from our own era, there are a number of works from this period that have maintained their relevance and continued to influence writers today. This essay topic could explore how Middle English works such as Beowulf, Piers Plowman, and The Canterbury Tales have continued to influence modern literature.
5. The Development of the English Language During the Middle Ages: The Middle Ages saw drastic changes to the English language, and this essay topic could explore how the works of this period contributed to the evolution of English. It could also analyze the specific changes that occurred to the English language during this time, such as the introduction of Latin and French words, and the development of regional dialects.