Rather than working on essays currently due (I know, I’m procrastinating), I had a go at chopping down an essay from last year and trying to make it suitable to enter the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship’s student essay competition. It’s on Aelfric’s treatment of Judith’s heroism in his homily (or letter) concerning her. This is a topic stuffed full of gender norms and whatnot- and my really original thought on the matter was all about gendered roles and symbols- but when I wrote it, I went out of my way not to write a ‘gender’ essay, and to approach the homily more broadly.
It’s a much better essay now that I’ve cut the rest of the stuff out. Much more streamlined. However, now I’m faced with the fact that I’ve written an essay which basically says “Aelfric excludes Judith from (masculine) heroism- he makes her about passive virtues like chastity and obedience, and then he has her cast off masculinity in the form of Holofernes’ weapons. Look, i can do a close text-study to prove it!”
Which is great. But I’m hearing the inevitable ‘so what’, and I don’t have an answer. Even if I did, I don’t have the time, or space within the competition’s page limit, to do so.
One lesson, at least, I have learned: cutting out around a thousand words can really improve your essay…