An Introduction to the Gawain-Poet

An Introduction to the Gawain-Poet

An Introduction to the Gawain-Poet

An Introduction to the Gawain-Poet

Synopsis

The late 14th century produced a crop of brilliant writers: Chaucer, Langland and Gower. Their achievement was rivalled only by a series of four works generally agreed to have been written by a single northern author, known as the Gawain-Poet. This book introduces the reader to the Gawain-poet's four surviving works: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Patience, Pearl and Cleanness. The four poems are made accessible to the student by setting them in their relevant historical and cultural context and by developing some lines of critical argument. All studies are based on the author's own research and translations.

Excerpt

This book is an introduction to the Gawain-poet's four surviving works: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Patience, Pearl, and Cleanness. Its purpose is to make all four poems accessible to students by setting the poet and his works in their relevant historical and cultural context, and, above all, by developing some lines of critical argument that, I think, bring out the best in the Gawain-poet's works.

My studies of the poems and their context are based on fresh research and ideas. I have not wanted merely to rehearse existing opinion about the Gawain-poet. Anyone interested in 'what the critics have said' about the poet and his oeuvre should consult the annotated bibliographies of criticism on the Gawain-poet by Andrew (1979); Foley (1989); Blanch (1990); and Stainsby (1991). In this book, secondary literature is referred to selectively, where it is relevant to my own argument, or where I am indebted to it.

In order to make this book easier to use for the general reader, quotations from the Gawain-poet have been translated into modern English. Both in my translations from Middle English and in my translations from foreign languages, I have opted for literal rather than elegant renderings; it is hoped that they will be used as an aid to reading the original passages, rather than as a substitute for it. All translations are my own; but in the bibliography of primary sources I also list references to published translations of important (non-English) medieval texts that are cited in this book. It may be reassuring to know that quite a few of the Latin, French, and Italian texts referred to in this book are available in translation.

Finally, a word of thanks for the time and mental energy which friends and colleagues have put into this book. Alun David taught me a thing or two about how to read the Gawain-poet's biblical sources.

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