Academic journal article Medium Aevum

'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' and the Order of the Garter

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' and the Order of the Garter

Article excerpt

Francis Ingledew, 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' and the Order of the Garter (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006). xii + 308 pp. ISBN 0-268-03176-2. $40.00.

It is a pleasure to read a book on a medieval literary text which takes history seriously from start to finish; after the indignities to which Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is sometimes subjected, Francis Ingledew's close attention to its relationship with medieval chronicle (notably those of Froissart and Jean le Bel) and the conflicting accounts of Edward Ill's alleged crime make for a very compelling and fascinating argument. There is much of value here. Ingledew makes a good case for redating the poem to the middle of the fourteenth century rather than the end. For Ingledew, both the poem and the Order of the Garter evoke the motif of a knight with a single stain on his character (rape for Edward, love of life for Gawain following an avoidance of sexual sin); the alleged rape of the Countess of Salisbury becomes the pivotal chivalric event of the era, not simply in England but on the Continent as well. Ingledew's evocation of a world obsessed with this event, seen as a threat to chivalry itself, is compelling. The poem as a 'romance narrative explains how a knightly brotherhood is formed bearing a device that is at once a love token and testimony to Gawain's chastity', and Ingledew believes this works as 'a gloss on Edward's order' (p. 159, italics in original).

The book's own status as 'event' is slightly unfortunate: Ingledew often refers to the proposed companion volume, Romance as History: British Past and Edwardian Present, a book which is listed in the bibliography as 'forthcoming' with no specific date attached. …

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