Reading Romance: Literacy, Psychology, and Malory's le Morte D'Arthur

By Margaret Dumais Svogun | Go to book overview

Conclusion

In ascribing to Le Morte D'Arthur such psychological content as discussed above, I by no means wish to deny the presence of other, more overt thematic concerns, such as the social, political and moral dilemmas often dealt with in the work, but rather to establish that such themes could not simply materialize out of a vacuum; they had to grow from the psychic content of, and inevitable mental changes in, historically developing humanity—there has to be a psychological sub-text both generating, and present in, any text (though indeed its presence may be quite artfully disguised).

Early suggestions that romance, along with other traditional literature, holds psychological content often met, as we saw, with resistance if not outright dismissal. However, as I asserted above, with supportive observations found in the work of such as Derek Brewer and Julian Jaynes, the realization has recently become more widespread and acceptable that we can never be fully sure of even the conscious aims of an artist (even if he is believed to have stated or implied them himself), let alone his inevitably existent unconscious aims. As was noted, Northrop Frye has labeled “absurd” the convention which says a that a reader or critic should confine himself to “getting out” of a work of fiction whatever the author may be assumed to have been aware of “putting in”.

Because of this inability to know for certain all of an artist's intentions, conscious and unconscious, a critic can only proceed—and always does so, whether admittedly or not—with what he personally perceives or accepts as the apparent meaning of a given work of art; and such perceptions will naturally be affected by an historical standpoint, by the subjective assumptions widespread at any given time and place. As I maintained above, what Jill Mann and countless others have done with Morte D'Arthur is to find a meaning in it which emerges for them only on the perception

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