Cultural Exchange

Creative writing and art

In place of the one essay, students were given the option to create a creative project – art piece of any medium (wood, stone, canvas, draft paper) with oils, watercolor, gouache, acrylic, charcoal, pastel as a response to one of the Old English texts discussed in class during the first half of the course. Many artists, for instance, have tried to represent the Wife’s Lament and the story of Beowulf. The creative project could also take the form of a written piece, such as a poem, play, short story, parts of a graphic novel, in response to one of the poems as Tolkien, for instance, continued the story of the Battle of Maldon as a play-script.

In the first six weeks, students read the Old Norse Sagas from the Poetic Edda and nine Old English poems (including BeowulfJudith from the Cotton Vitellius A, The Battle of Maldon and The Battle of Brunanburh), and the Anglo-Saxon Riddles. What follows are creative responses to some of these texts from students engaging with the poetic verses and reflecting on the meaning of these poems (and the significance of the poems to them today).   

I am grateful to Dr. Chris Koenig-Woodyard who influenced this assignment. I had the pleasure of working with him in 2015-2016 as a teaching assistant for English 202: British Literature Medieval to Romantic at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He assigned students the option of creating a “postcard poem” with an accompanying essay. Students were asked to buy or create a postcard (or use a postcard they received) and then write a poem inspired by the image, using a poetic form discussed in the course. The creative piece then had to be accompanied by an essay, explaining the creative process and development of the poem and discussing the text and language of the verses. These were some of the most enriching assignments to grade, and a creative way for students to use critical vocabulary to discuss the diction, rhetorical language, sounds, rhythm, and other personal decisions of their creative process.

In 2021, I provided an option for students to respond creatively to the poems we read in class. In this project students also had to provide an essay as a personal commentary to explain their image or written piece, explaining the direction of the written work or art piece and commenting on the plan of the piece: why they choose the topic (inspiration) and how it relates to the story of warrior culture; heroes; monsters; women in Old English poetry, or any other comments of Anglo-Saxon Culture. Again, I received enriching pieces from the students, and some students have agreed to share their work with others on this platform.


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