Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Sir Thomas Malory; le Morte Darthur: The Winchester Manuscript

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Sir Thomas Malory; le Morte Darthur: The Winchester Manuscript

Article excerpt

Sir Thomas Malary; Le Morte Darthur. The Winchester Manuscript, edited and abridged with an introduction and notes by Helen Cooper, Oxford World's Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). xxxiii + 576 pp. ISBN o-19-282420-1. L7.99.

This splendid volume gives us the Winchester Malory in a new, affordable, modern-spelling edition. A book of this sort involves a number of tricky decisions, all of which are judiciously handled by Helen Cooper. The text has been slightly abridged, mostly by leaving out lesser military engagements and a number of minor episodes. Readers of Malory may hunt down omissions of details to which they have a special attachment, but the result, a somewhat less daunting book, is extremely welcome, and the exclusions have been sensitively made. Modernized spelling of early texts always carries with it a set of difficulties and debates. The semantic fields of numerous words and idioms have shifted slightly since the fifteenth century, and original spelling acts as a warning to the twentieth-century eye. Malory's famously loose sentence structure, at once a product of different period expectations and a tool exploited for his own peculiar narratorial mode, may look especially odd, if not sloppy, when shorn of its fifteenth-century spelling. But once again, the gains vastly outstrip the losses, and in this case go beyond the argument for accessibility. In a sense the modern spelling paradoxically gives us a Malory closer to the one experienced by his first readers. The effect is somewhat like that of cleaning an Old Master. Malory wrote in a rather conversational, ordinary-language way, and the new spelling removes a veil of false literariness from his text. The vibrancy of direct speech is especially evident here.

The thirty-five pages of explanatory notes, handily signposted by asterisks, are excellent. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.