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IMC 2015: Sessions

Session 1229: Renewing Literary Traditions, I

Wednesday 8 July 2015, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:M. Jane Toswell, Department of English, University of Western Ontario
Paper 1229-aChange and Renewal in Layamon's Brut: The Case of Sea Words and Images
(Language: English)
Maria Volkonskaya, Higher School of Economics, National Research University, Moscow
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Language and Literature - Middle English
Paper 1229-bThe Knight's Tale: Chaucer’s 14th-Century Romance
(Language: English)
Retha Knoetze, Department of English Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Mentalities, Social History
Paper 1229-cReforming the Hero: Sir Gawain
(Language: English)
Tania Azevedo, Instituto de Letras e Ciências Humanas, Universidade do Minho
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Teaching the Middle Ages

Paper -a:
Layamon's 'Brut' is well-known for being a transitional stage between Old English and Middle English alliterative poetry. On the one hand, it preserves some traces of the Old English poetic tradition, such as, for instance, poetic words and collocations. On the other hand, even those traces that seem to be similar to Old English, undergo significant, though subtle, changes. This paper will explore two such examples, both related to sea. The first is the word 'sæ' itself that clearly changes its metrical positions and alliteration patterns. The second example is the image of the burning sea that is reminiscent of the link between 'flod' and 'fyr' in Old English poetry.

Paper -b:
According to Diamond (1994:65), the inability of romance idealisations to sustain themselves in the Knight's Tale and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, two of the greatest late medieval English romances, 'can be read as literary evidence of the transformation of the aristocracy from a dominant and self-confident class to one threatened by the massive economic and social changes of the fourteenth century'.

This paper will provide an investigation of Diamond's claim in relation to Chaucer's Knight's Tale through an exploration of how romance tropes function within the tale. Chaucer employs the romance genre in the Canterbury Tales while situated in a very different social context to the one in which romance originated. I will argue that the way in which Chaucer employs and transforms the romance genre in this tale suggests an awareness of the fact that a knightly, chivalric worldview was coming under threat within his changing society. I will illustrate that Chaucer employs the romance genre in the Knight's Tale in order to engage in a dialogue with the hierarchical assumptions traditionally upheld in romances, and that he often diverges from traditional romance expectations in order to explore concerns - such as social tensions and a waning optimism in the aristocracy - which are relevant for his own changing society. Finally, I will suggest that the romance genre is adapted throughout the Canterbury Tales in order to investigate social issues relevant to Chaucer's 14th-century social context.

Paper -c:
Towards the end of the 14th century, England was beginning a change from within, where the local dialects would prevail, when compared to the language of the distant invader, French. This is not only obvious in historical movements but also in the literary universe. The Gawain-poet, writing around 1380, probably knew by heart the European continental tradition that had degraded Gauvain's character and elevated Galahad as the noblest hero in texts like the French 'Quête'.

Nevertheless, he chose his hero to remain English, connected to his language, roots and Celtic traditions and so he wrote about loyal Gawain. Our aim will be to show how the poet, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, has deliberately chosen to keep his hero English, away from the continental traditions, especially the French ones. A change in literature was made by reforming a hero, the one the English soil needed to resist its lingering intruder.