Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Gentry Context for Malory's 'Morte Darthur'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Gentry Context for Malory's 'Morte Darthur'

Article excerpt

Raluca L. Radulescu, The Gentry Context for Malory's 'Morte Darthur', Arthurian Studies 5 5 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer; Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, 2003). viii + 165 pp. ISBN 0-85991-785-1. £45.00.

Raluca L. Radulescu promises a 'fresh investigation of [Malory's] work from the perspective of fifteenth-century gentry culture' (p. I). This book (like Hyonjin Kim's recent The Knight without the Sword) derives its authority and confidence from the work of P. J. C. Field; ten years after the publication of his ground-breaking biography The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory, Field's thesis concerning Malory's identity has been almost universally accepted, allowing scholars to begin analysing Malory as both author and fifteenthcentury individual by making specific connections between his literary work and his political career.

Radulescu argues that Malory's work, compared with gentry letters by the Pastons (among others), illuminates 'gentry attitudes at a moment of historical change' even as these attitudes 'reveal the gentry's response to the Morte Darthur from the perspective of their own class viewpoint' (p. 3). The book is divided almost evenly between a thorough overview of the letters and reading practices of the gentry (chapters i and ii) and the application of these values to Malory's Morte (chapters iii and iv). Chapter ii is especially strong, detailing gentry interest in the 'grete boke', compendiums of political, military, and spiritual lore that testify to a growing interest in emulating the nobility; the section on chronicles (including Hardyng, known to be among Malory's minor sources) and genealogy is of great value (pp. …

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