Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Before Malory: Reading Arthur in Later Medieval England

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Before Malory: Reading Arthur in Later Medieval England

Article excerpt

Richard J. Moll, Before Malory: Reading Arthur in Later Medieval England (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003). ix + 368 pp. ISBN 0-8020-3722-4. $60.00.

Richard J. Moll's book gives prominence to a number of texts that remain obscure even to many specialists in Arthurian literature - texts such as Thomas Gray's Scalacronica and John Hardyng's Metrical Chronicle. Moll examines the influence of Arthurian romance on late medieval English chroniclers, as well as the incorporation of chronicle material into works usually read within the framework of romance: The Alliterative Morte Arthure, The Awntyrs off Arthure, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Moll argues that, contrary to the opinion of many critics, medieval authors and their scribes distinguished between the veracious and the fictive, and were careful to signal to their readers where the dividing line between different genres of writing was to be drawn. Works more often discussed in relation to Malory's Morte Darthur are given their own space here, revealing the complexities of generic interaction in England in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and the circulation of the sources of some of the most brilliant works of the period beyond the transforming hands of those works' authors.

There is a great deal of useful information in the book, although its significance could perhaps have been brought into sharper focus. Moll does not connect his findings to genre theory, nor to recent critical reference points for chronicle writing, such as the essay by Andrew Galloway in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature. There are also some more local critical omissions: for example, Moll discusses the relationship of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to French romance without mentioning Ad Putter's 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' and French Arthurian Romance. …

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