Annotated Bibliography On Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

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Batt, Catherine. "'Sir Gawain And The Green Knight' And The Idea Of Righteousness." Modern Language Review 88.4 (1993): 937-938. Print.

Catherine Batt’s argument is to agree with scholar Gerald Morgan that a proper reading of mediaeval texts requires understanding the mind of the person or people that created it. There are particular fourteenth-century ideas emphasized in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, such as the pentangle, the symbolism of which must be heavily considered when reading the poem. In other words, modern readers should not apply modern views to the poem, such as views about women. Batt questions why “the Green Knight, a proven terrorist” is poised as Gawain’s moral judge; the same question could be asked as to why women play a role as tempters in the poem. This is an important question that Batt does not answer; she blames it on the ambiguity of the poem. Still, it is a useful question that thoughtful examination of fourteenth century Christian mores can answer.

Battles, Paul. "Amended Texts, Emended Ladies: Female Agency And The Textual Editing Of "Sir Gawain And The Green Knight.." Chaucer Review 44.3 (2010): 323-343. Print.

Paul Battles discusses the role of editors in promoting or obscuring the role of women in the text of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Although it can be expected that older editions interpreting the text should obscure the role of women, Battles finds it inexcusable that women’s roles in the poem should be overlooked in modern editions. Battle’s discussion of particular parts of the poem, such as Gawain’s first temptation by Lady Bertilak, are highly technical, in some cases only making sense to a reader who has studied the translation of middle English to modern English. However, Battles brings up important points about Gawain’s temptations; he believes that scholars have minimized Lady Bertilak’s role as part of Gawain’s temptations and that her role is one of great importance. Battles also brings up the role of Morgan Le Fay as one that scholars have dismissed as unimportant, though he believes that she is the true antagonist of the story. The final point Battles brings up is an interpreter’s changing of middle English at the end of the poem to eliminate women altogether from the last part of the poem when Gawain returns to the round table. Battles’s work is useful in showing that women are an important part of the text, especially when it comes to the idea of temptation and trial.

Finley, C. Stephen. "`Endeles Knot': Closure And Indeterminacy In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight." Papers On Language & Literature 26.4 (1990): 445. Print.

Stephen Finley’s paper discusses the issue of indeterminacy and closure in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, claiming that these issues are dependent upon each other. Part of the discussion in the paper includes the idea that closure is a modern idea that was not necessary to fourteenth century readers or listeners in a general sense. Finley also discusses how the ambiguity of the poem has led some scholars to very differing viewpoints concerning the meaning of the end of the poem. For instance, Martin Stevens believes Gawain’s return to the round table represents his return to reality, whereas R.A. Hapern believes that Gawain’s return to court shows his possible temptation to reject his lessons about human vanity and aspirations. Finley argues that the poem presents a temptation not only for Gawain, but also for the reader to impose particular set-in-stone meanings for the poem itself. This paper provides an interesting view on the aspects of temptation and modern versus fourteenth century views of temptation.

Martin, Carl Grey. "The Cipher Of Chivalry: Violence As Courtly Play In The World Of "Sir Gawain And The Green Knight.." Chaucer Review 43.3 (2009): 311-329. Print.

Carol Martin’s paper discusses the rationale of violence as a part of courtly play during the fourteenth century. Martin argues that “courtly ideals” are not realistic. They are artifices that allow barbaric violence to be seen as mere play. Chivalry is often seen by modern readers as the height of good manners, and good manners appear to be of utmost importance in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. However, Martin argues that the “play” Arthur demands and the results of Gawain’s actions against the Green Knight are in fact “discourtesies.” Martin relates other historical instances in which “violent chivalric” contests are arranged as amusement. This sort of chivalric play, Martin points out, is itself a temptation to which the court of King Arthur succumbs. This paper presents a modern view of the idea of temptation, that of courtly play, which overarches the specific temptations that Gawain encounters throughout the poem.

Moll, Richard J. "Frustrated Readers And Conventional Decapitation In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight." Modern Language Review 97.4 (2002): 793-802. Print.

Richard Moll’s paper explores the idea of inconsistency and ambiguity within the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He claims that unlike the other characters who prove to be consistent in Arthurian legend such as Lancelot and Morgan Le Fay, Gawain is a uniquely ambiguous character. Moll discusses the views of other historians who present Gawain as a consistent character who represents the best of fine manners and courtesy. For those familiar with the various histories of Arthurian times, Gawain is not presented as a man whose foremost concern is courtesy, but as one who prefers action to words. However, Moll argues that historical representations of Gawain as a man of action and Gawain as a romantic man of courtesy should both be accepted as true; interpreters and readers who try to separate the two are subject to confusion and the feeling that the Gawain of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a man of ambiguity. Moll’s argument relies heavily on discussing the poem in the context of other fourteenth century poems; he advises a modern audience not to pigeonhole Gawain as representing a single characteristic, chivalry, but to view him as a multifaceted character. Nothing is mentioned within the paper about the idea of temptation and testing, however it provides a valuable view of Gawain as a multifaceted character and the place of ambiguity in the poem.

Morgan, Gerald. "Medieval Misogyny And Gawain's Outburst Against Women In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight." Modern Language Review 97.2 (2002): 265.

Gerald Morgan’s paper discusses the manner in which the idea of a chivalric knight depends upon the “gracious and honorable” manner in which he treats women. Morgan warns against imposing modern ideas about women’s role on fourteenth century views. Morgan discusses a number of other works such as those by Spenser and Chaucer in order to discuss the time’s ideas about chivalry. Morgan dissects in detail each passage in which Gawain is tempted by the lady and how he reacts with perfect courtesy rather than misogyny. In order to best understand the role of women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Morgan relates Gawain’s personal culpability concerning his own circumstances. He is not an “embittered male” who blames women for his problems. This paper presents an interesting and well-developed view of the necessity of the role of women within the poem, not as foils but as part of a whole that should not be ignored in the interpretation of temptation, chivalry and other aspects of the story.

Pearsall, Derek. "Sir Gawain And The Green Knight": An Essay In Enigma." Chaucer Review 46.1/2 (2011): 248-258. Print.

Derek Pearsall is a scholar who has studied Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for over 60 years, and his paper discusses the ambiguity of the meaning of the poem. While the plot is clear, he believes that the true meaning and significance of the poem is mysterious. He lists the popular interpretations of the poems that critics have, including the poem as a “myth of rebirth,” the poem as a Christian tale, the poem as a comedy, the poem as one demonstrating tension between civilized and courtly mores, and the poem as a subversion of the romantic genre. Pearsall’s writing style and many examples make this paper a valuable addition to discussing the variety of interpretations concerning chivalry, courtly values, and temptation that the poem requires readers to evaluate. He offers no solid conclusions, but many ideas that can be considered by readers, especially when it comes to interpreting the poem in terms of other research concerning Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Rigby, Marjory. "'Sir Gawain And The Green Knight' And The Vulgate 'Lancelot'." Modern Language Review 78.2 (1983): 257-266. Print.

Marjory Rigby’s paper compares the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with Lancelot. Although the paper primarily seeks to discuss the similarities and differences between the original texts of these poems, it offers many insights into Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that assist in conforming or enhancing the ideas of other researchers of the poem. Particularly significant are Rigby’s discussion of the themes of chastity, courtesy, and faithfulness and its contrast with Gawain’s guide who displays rudeness in his lack of faith in Gawain’s ability to conquer the Green Knight. Rigby also discusses the role of women and temptation within the poem, as well as the poem’s mystery and ambiguity. Although Rigby provides no conclusive answers to the questions regarding temptation and ambiguity, her observations highlight the incidences of temptation and the role of chivalry and women within the poem.

Sharma, Manish. "Hiding The Harm: Revisionism And Marvel In "Sir Gawain And The Green Knight.." Papers On Language & Literature 44.2 (2008): 168-193. Print.

Manish Sharma’s paper is one of many scholarly works that considers the idea of ambiguity within Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The chief conflict Sharma mentions is that the poem follows romantic conventions but also that Gawain “ignores the merciful and Christian options” he could follow concerning the Green Knight’s challenge. The ambiguity comes in when trying to decide if this conflict is a result of un-Christian morals or modern difficulties in interpretation of the text. Sharma appears to be disturbed by the choices Gawain makes and basically accuses the poet of using Morgan le Fay’s plot to kill Guinevere as a deus ex machina. The revisionisim mentioned in the title of the paper concerns Gawain’s own retelling of his adventures once he returns to Camelot. Sharma views Gawain’s discussion of his temptations by women as one that is consistent with historical themes and beliefs about women; additionally, this links him with Adam, “the first man.” Sharma’s wordy writing style often makes his points difficult to discern, but he makes several valuable points about ethics and temptation in his paper.

Wilson E. 'Trawthe' and Treason. The Sin of Gawain Reconsidered: A Thematic Study of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'. Modern Language Review [serial on the Internet]. (1983, Apr), [cited March 18, 2013]; 78(2): 423-424. Print.

Like many critics, E. Wilson agrees that any interpretation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight requires and understanding of the time and culture in which it was written. Wilson provides information about The Great Statute of Treasons of 1352 in England. His study of language leads him to believe that the Statute has been misinterpreted by others to a degree that it is not useful in assessing the ethical implications of events in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Wilson’s detailed examination of the language interpretations of this statute lend some explanation toward the moral choices and temptations of Gawain, as well as the comedic aspect of the poem when Gawain returns to court. This paper provides a valuable historical context of English law at the time the poem was written, which sheds some light on the choices Gawain makes when faced with his various temptations, especially those presented by women.

Works Cited

Batt, Catherine. "'Sir Gawain And The Green Knight' And The Idea Of Righteousness." Modern Language Review 88.4 (1993): 937-938. Print.
Battles, Paul. "Amended Texts, Emended Ladies: Female Agency And The Textual Editing Of "Sir Gawain And The Green Knight.." Chaucer Review 44.3 (2010): 323-343. Print.
Finley, C. Stephen. "`Endeles Knot': Closure And Indeterminacy In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight." Papers On Language & Literature 26.4 (1990): 445. Print.
Martin, Carl Grey. "The Cipher Of Chivalry: Violence As Courtly Play In The World Of "Sir Gawain And The Green Knight.." Chaucer Review 43.3 (2009): 311-329. Print.
Moll, Richard J. "Frustrated Readers And Conventional Decapitation In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight." Modern Language Review 97.4 (2002): 793-802. Print.
Morgan, Gerald. "Medieval Misogyny And Gawain's Outburst Against Women In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight." Modern Language Review 97.2 (2002): 265.
Pearsall, Derek. "Sir Gawain And The Green Knight": An Essay In Enigma." Chaucer Review 46.1/2 (2011): 248-258. Print.
Rigby, Marjory. "'Sir Gawain And The Green Knight' And The Vulgate 'Lancelot'." Modern Language Review 78.2 (1983): 257-266. Print.
Sharma, Manish. "Hiding The Harm: Revisionism And Marvel In "Sir Gawain And The Green Knight.." Papers On Language & Literature 44.2 (2008): 168-193. Print.
Wilson E. 'Trawthe' and Treason. The Sin of Gawain Reconsidered: A Thematic Study of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'. Modern Language Review [serial on the Internet]. (1983, Apr), [cited March 18, 2013]; 78(2): 423-424. Print.

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