The Pen and the Pennon: Political and Social Comment Inscribed within Chivalric Romance
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Study of the Medieval English romance has burgeoned in recent years, with a focus on the world outside of the texts being central to the resurgence. I offer in this dissertation a reading of four of these works (Athelston, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Cleges, and Sir Gowther) that considers each of them in the environment in which they are presented. Utilizing the contexts of manuscript placement, contemporary social and legal issues, and sociological changes affecting the audience, this work explores an analytical reading of each work that establishes possible meanings for each romance and possible motivations for their unnamed authors. Each work is ascribed its own chapter, focusing on a particular issue of English knighthood being interrogated. Chapter three suggests that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight repurposes the character of Gawain to observe the importance of oath taking and the bonds formed by knights from the practice of such. Chapter four focuses on the message of Athelston and argues that the work repositions the power of the crown beneath that of a regularized judicial system in which knights function as jurists. Chapter five engages Sir Cleges and the economic lesson of creating bounds for the practice of largesse in the knightly social structure. Chapter six looks at Sir Gowther and supposes a reading of the work that inscribes lessons regarding legal inheritance and social mobility amongst the knightly class.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- The period and the manuscripts -- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- Athelston -- Sir Cleges -- Sir Gowther -- Conclusion