Gawain: A Casebook

Gawain: A Casebook

Gawain: A Casebook

Gawain: A Casebook

Excerpt

Gawain is Volume VIII of the Routledge casebook series “Arthurian Characters and Themes.” The series includes volumes devoted to the best-known characters from Arthurian legend: Tristan and Isolde, Arthur, Lancelot and Guenevere, Merlin, and Perceval. One is devoted to Arthurian women in general, and a single volume treats an Arthurian theme—the Grail—rather than characters.

Each volume offers an extended introductory survey and a bibliography and presents some twenty major essays on its subject. Several of the essays in each volume are newly commissioned for the series; the others are reprinted from their original sources. The previously published contributions date for the most part from the past two decades, although a few older, “classic” essays are included in several of the volumes—the criterion being the continuing importance of the study.

Heaviest emphasis remains on the development of the legend and its characters and themes during the Middle Ages, but each volume gives appropriate attention also to modern, even very recent, treatments. Similarly, the central focus is on literature, but without excluding important discussions of visual, musical, and cinematic arts. Thus, a number of the volumes are intently interdisciplinary in focus.

The proliferation of scholarly studies of Arthurian material continues at a daunting rate. When the Bibliographical Bulletin of the International Arthurian Society began publishing annual bibliographies, the first volume (1949) included 226 items (books, articles, and reviews), and some sections of that compilation represented national bibliographies over a full decade. The number of entries has increased regularly and dramatically, to the point that the most recent numbers of the Bulletin list well over one thousand items. Furthermore, the major contributions to Arthurian scholarship are often dispersed widely through North America, Europe, and elsewhere, and in books and articles that are in some instances very difficult to locate.

As a result, it is extraordinarily difficult even for the professional medievalist to keep abreast of Arthurian scholarship, and it would be very nearly impossible for the non-scholar with serious Arthurian interests to identify and locate a score of the major scholarly contributions devoted to a particular character or theme. These difficulties surely dramatize the value of the Arthurian Characters and Themes series, but they also remain an insistent reminder that even the most informed selection of major essays requires us to omit . . .

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