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2400 – 2800 words

at least four (4) secondary research sources and (2) primary texts, all of them quoted



The purpose is to argue for a particular reading or interpretation of a given text or passage. Your

paper should have an argumentative thesis, and you should seek to prove that thesis through

textual evidence, which is to say I want you to quote from the text, analyze those quotations

through close reading, and thereby argue for an interpretation of your chosen text.


Prompt: Compare and contrast the interpretations (or significance/role) of Merlin’s character within the two texts.


Primary texts:

Text #1: History of the Kings of Britain (Novel) by Geoffrey of Monmouth

Text #2: Vita Merlini (Poem) by Geoffrey of Monmouth

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Feel free to use these sources or your own:


Brooke, Christopher. “Geoffrey of Monmouth as a Historian.” Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism, edited by Jelena O. Krstovic, vol. 44, Gale, 2001. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 17 Apr. 2019. Originally published in Church and Government in the Middle Ages, edited by C. N. L. Brooke, Cambridge University Press, 1976, pp. 77-91.


Tatlock, J. S. P. “Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini.” Speculum, vol. 18, no. 3, 1943, pp. 265–287. JSTO,


Christine Chism. “‘Ain’t Gonna Study War No More’: Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia RegumBritanniae and Vita Merlini.” The Chaucer Review, vol. 48, no. 4, 2014, pp. 457–479. JSTOR,


Dalton, Paul. “The Topical Concerns of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britannia: History, Prophecy, Peacemaking, and English Identity in the Twelfth Century.” Journal of British Studies, vol. 44, no. 4, 2005, pp. 688–712. JSTOR,





Some notes I’ve gathered from each text (May use if needed):



  • Amazed auditors with her ambiguous words, relating the darkest moments in British history
  • British prophet
  • Enters midpoint as a possible solution to the quandary of Vortigern’s collapsing fortress
  • Youth without a father whose blood will stabilize the fortress’s foundation
    • Tried to resolve the violent dialectic of family struggle by removing a family from the equation
  • More uncanny than merely a fatherless being
  • Hybrid of a spirit (supernatural figure of irresistible sexual desire or a royal nun)
  • Does not evade the conflicts of masculine desire and resistance the destabilize foundation in the text
    • Intensifies them, playing them out in a meta-historical key
  • Vortigern accepts his authority as a narrative informant
  • Acknowledges the human cost of British foundational violence
    • Literary meditation on the larger dialectics of British history renders the violence magnificent, monstrous, even pleasurable
  • Geoffrey’s acknowledgment that there is no solution to the problem of human transience
  • Allows Geoffrey to dramatize the problem in a narrative vein that distances it from what is tragic and pathetic
  • Presents Britain as a coveted object of desire, a treasure to be possessed, and a living palimpsest on which Kings inscribe their deeds



  • Explorer of the fecund British landscape
  • 12 years later
  • Watched the stars as routinely as a modern businessman would watch the nightly news
  • Prophesies compulsively not to Kings in portentous circumstances but to anyone in earshot
  • Enters in the beginning and is neither the fatherless child nor hybrid of desire and constraint
  • Becomes very antisocial after the death of his 3 companions, which causes him to lose the desire to connect emotionally with any human being
    • Addresses the creatures of the woods as his dear companions, identifying most closely with the wolf
  • After he is partially healed, he returned to society, not sociality
    • Coldly addressed his wife/sister
    • Love, desire, the capacity to connect to other humans had become too costly to sustain
  • During his first healing, he is depicted as a prophet whose insights serve neither Kings are God
  • Insights disenchant human relations, revealing them to be hypocritical and futile (emphasis on his 3 laughs)
  • Society torments human with its betrayal, foolishness, and need; sociopathic laughter is all her can muster
  • Incident communicates the force of his masculinity and broader enmity against ongoing social relations
  • Only comforted by the return to the woods – highlights the absence of social relations
  • Exhibits a fascination with Britain’s natural world as an exquisite structure and a marvelous creation of God’s deputy, Nature


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