1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 : 8 : 9

  1. Arthur's nephew Gawain is among the earliest of his companions to play a significant role in the stories. How do his role and character change in different genres (e.g., chronicle, chivalric romance, popular romance) and texts especially in the works of Chrétien de Troyes, the Vulgate Cycle, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, and the final books of Malory's Morte Darthur (NAEL 8, 1.162–213; 1.439–56)? You may also want to look at texts made available by TEAMS (The Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages), especially the unabridged text of The Marriage of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, Sir Gawain and the Carle of Carlisle, and Ywain and Gawain (a Middle-English adaptation of Chrétien de Troyes' Yvain).
  2. Is there satire of conventional ideas of chivalry and gender in Lanval, The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, and the Wife of Bath's Tale? If so, what exactly is being satirized, and how would you describe the satire (e.g., broad, subtle, good-natured, biting, etc.)?
  3. How are chivalric ideas of love put to the test in the following bedroom scenes? Lancelot and Guinevere in Chrétien de Troyes's Knight of the Cart; Gawain and the lady of the castle in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Part 3; Lancelot and Guinevere in Malory's Morte Darthur (NAEL 8, 1.442–44)? How would you grade each knight's success in these scenes?
  4. How well does King Arthur's reputation as one of the Nine Worthies stand up in Wace and Layamon (NAEL 8, 1.119–28)? In Chrétien's romances, in the Vulgate Cycle, and in Malory's Morte Darthur (NAEL 8, 1.439–56)?
  5. What can we assume about English Gawain poet's familiarity with French Arthurian romances? Could one consider Sir Gawain and the Green Knight a response to Gawain's reputation in the French tradition? How would you characterize that response?
  6. Compare Marie de France in Lanval with the Wife of Bath as narrator of romance. How has Chaucer adapted the Loathly Lady story to make it appropriate to the character of the Wife? How successful has Chaucer been in establishing a genuine woman's voice and point of view toward romance? How is such a voice and point view established?
  7. Read Malory's retelling of The Knight of the Cart in an edition of his works (the standard one by Eugène Vinaver is available both in a one- and three-volume edition). The "Knight of the Cart" is the fourth story in the next-to-last book, entitled "The Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere." What differences are there between Malory's version and the corresponding excerpts from Chrétien's included in this NTO, especially between the way Chrétien and Malory handle the opening of the tale and the night Lancelot and Guinevere spend together at Meleagent's castle?
  8. Many of the writers who made up the Arthurian legend were churchmen — Geoffrey of Monmouth (NAEL 8, 1.118–20), Wace (1.120–124), Layamon (1.124–26), the authors of the Vulgate Cycle, and probably the poet of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (NAEL 8, 1.162–213). How do these writers represent the relationship between religion and chivalry? Are they aware of any contradictions? If so, how do they deal with them?
  9. Throughout the Middle Ages and ever since, Arthurian legend and literature have been used by rulers, historians, writers, and painters to articulate and comment upon political issues of their own times and places. Explore the relation of the Arthurian tradition to contemporary culture and political issues in any of the following cases:
    1. Anglo-Norman Britain. How do the twelfth-century chroniclers in this section (Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace, and Layamon) comment upon, intervene in, and reflect contemporary political concerns?
    2. Britain in the fourteenth century (the time of Chaucer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Hundred Years War).
    3. Britain in the fifteenth century (the time of Malory, Caxton, and the Wars of the Roses).
    4. Victorian Britain. How does Tennyson's vision of national history in Idylls of the King (NAEL 8, 2.1190–1211) reflect the ideals and actualities of Britain in the nineteenth century? Compare Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott (NAEL 8, 2.1114–18) and/or William Morris's The Defense of Guenevere (NAEL 8, 2.1483–91) with the Arthurian images produced by the Pre-Raphaelites, such as Rossetti's The Lady of Shalott, Hunt's The Lady of Shalott, Morris's Queen Guenevere, and the photograph of Jane Morris.

© 2010 W.W. Norton and Company :  Site Feedback  :  Help  :  Credits  :  Home  :  Top of page