Beowulf Suggested Essay Topics

10 Interesting College-Level Essay Topics For Beowulf 

Beowulf is one of the most studied early works of literature. Along with its epic tale and complex poetic structure, like many great works of literature, it tackles many universal themes. This is one of the aspects of it that continues to draw scholars and high school students alike to it—the reminder that the same things that were important and compelling to a writer and audience in the 8th or 11th century, are still compelling to us today.

If you’re writing an essay on Beowulf for a college class, narrowing down a topic can be a challenge because it is such a long and dense work. Use these topics as jumping off points:

  1. How are the themes of male dominance and patriarchy handled in Beowulf? And what was the historical precedence for this when it was written?
  2. How important a factor is ancestry to the warriors? How does it compare to other factors of self worth and societal worth for them?
  3. What is the importance of religion in Beowulf? How is it different from other literary works from the same time period?
  4. Are there any female heroines in Beowulf?
  5. What significance did the mead hall have in Beowulf? What is the modern day equivalent to the mead hall in hero archetypal stories?
  6. Would Beowulf have been elected if they used democracy as a structure of government? If he wouldn’t which other character would be most likely to be elected?
  7. Which character in Beowulf is the most well developed with psychological and moral complexity?
  8. How does Hrothgar’s sermon function as a window into the writer’s voice? What does it tell use that dialogue cant?
  9. What did Grendel’s claw serve as a symbol for?
  10. Is there a modern equivalent for the heroic code of comitatus in Beowulf?

As with any writing assignment, it’s important to make sure that you fully understand the assignment and your professor’s requirements and expectations for it. If you are unsure, or have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask them for clarification before you begin the writing process.

Another tip to keep in mind when choosing a paper topic is to choose something that you find interesting or identify with personally. Even if you’re not a big fan of Beowulf, if you’re going to be spending time writing a paper about it, you might as well choose a topic that wont make you hate every minute of it.

Posted by July 7th, 2016

During today's on-the-ground classes, students suggested essay topics for Beowulf. Here are some of the topics that were mentioned:
• Explain how the use of allusions (to the Bible and other works) helps illuminate the theme of Beowulf
• Analyze the differences in the three fights and explain how they trace the development of Beowulf as a hero
• Was Beowulf’s confidence/cockiness an asset or a tragic flaw?
• Compare the idea of an honorable hero in Beowulf’s time to modern representations
• How do elements of language influence elements of literature? How does the language in Beowulf influence the reader’s understanding?
• Compare Beowulf to modern heroes; how they’re different, better/worse, characteristics (societies/differences in culture and how they affected individual perspectives and decisions)
• How does Beowulf represent everything the Norse stood for (morals, values etc.)?
• Compare myth & reality: which elements of Beowulf appear to reflect the reality of the time, and which elements serve storytelling purposes?
• How did the evolution of the English language favor some ideas and omit others?

·      In your opinion is Beowulf a prideful hero or just a reflection of the time period?  Do you think the character was intentionally designed for effect or merely a product of the times?

·      Compare Beowulf with a modern hero (Iron Man, e.g.).  How are the two personalities similar/different, and how do they suit their respective storylines?

·      Define the symbolism in Beowulf and explain how it developed the story.

·      Describe how Beowulf portrayed the morals, values and culture of the Danish people.

·      Compare Beowulf with a tragic hero from Ancient Greece.

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