Media/Pop Culture Essay

Designed by: Joshua R. Eyler, Rice University
Category: Modern Medieval

Assignment Outcomes
I envision this course as an educational laboratory. You will play with ideas, do some experimenting, and end up concocting new ways of viewing some very old texts. By the end of the semester, you will have accomplished the following:
  • You will be familiar with the characteristics, forms, conventions, and themes of the oldest literature written in English, and you will be able to demonstrate the influence of religion and historical circumstances on this literature.
  • You will understand the problems inherent to studying medieval literature, and you will have made steps toward finding the solutions.
  • You will be able to recognize basic forms of Old English vocabulary, and you will be able to read Middle English with relative fluency.
  • You will be able to trace the roots of modern literary phenomena back to their existence in medieval literature.
  • You will improve your skills in writing and argumentation through several different kinds of assignments.


As you will see over the course of the semester, references to the Middle Ages abound in contemporary movies, books, newspapers, television, advertisements, etc. Some of these references are very brief, pausing only to call a public policy “medieval” in its outlook, while others are more extensive, making up the subject matter for a major motion picture. For this assignment, then, I would like you to discuss the influence of the Middle Ages on modern texts. For example, you might choose to analyze the portrayal of the medieval world in one of the many (MANY!) movies that deal with the Middle Ages, or you could focus on something like the presidency of John F. Kennedy, which was often compared to King Arthur’s Camelot. Whichever route you choose, make sure to have a clear argument and a detailed analysis of not just HOW your text uses the Middle Ages but WHY it does so. You must also use outside sources for this paper, which should include material about the text you are analyzing and about the medieval material to which the text refers.