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2013 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III

"I Sing of a Maiden": A Critical Analysis

“I sing of a maiden” is a Middle English lyric written about the Incarnation, the divine conception of Jesus to Mary. The poem is praised by critics for its use of descriptive imagery, superb and unique form, and individualistic language that retains elements of religious overtones. There are several points of contention amongst critics that have analyzed the language, content, and theme of the poem. This essay directly addresses the analysis of Stephen Manning, who writes in his essay discussing the poem that the author of “I sing of a maiden” makes use of allusive puns and figurative descriptions, ultimately to demonstrate that the poem emphasizes a sexual connotation of the Virgin Mary. The two main points of Manning’s argument arise from the poems use of the word makeles, and the repetition of the imagery of dew in April. Other critics have commented on the author’s intentions, and differ in opinion about the overall message of the poem. While the meaning of the language remains open for interpretation, what is clear is that the poem has a deeply religious meaning granting Mary a status of divinity through her direct relationship with the Trinity. This is achieved through the author’s maintenance of a common theme and continuity in each section of the poem. Stephen Manning’s argument, though unique, is constructed on assumption of the author’s intentions. It is the religious language and refined form used by the author that takes on the most significance.

Presenter: Richard Tomczak (SUNY Brockport) -- rtomc1@u.brockport.edu
Topic: English II - Panel
Location: 218 Hartwell
Time: 2 pm (Session III)

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