Friday, November 19, 2010

Hwaet Medievalists!

So in my Early British Survey, which you may recall I'm teaching for the first time next term, I have ONE DAY into which I can fit Gawain. Should I excerpt? Narrow focus on some particular point or passage? Or a few? Or is there another text you'd privilege over an excerpted Gawain? Advice, please.


Lisa B. said...

I'm no medievalist, but I love Gawain, and think that whole first part, where the Knight comes into the dining hall, is just fantastic. It would be a shame to miss it. Excerpt!

A grene hors gret and þikke,
A stede ful stif to strayne,
In brawden brydel quik--
To þe gome he watz ful gayn.

Come ON.

Fretful Porpentine said...

I'm not a medievalist, but I might (reluctantly) go for "Lanval" over Gawain if I were really pressed for time. It's got most of the essential romance elements compressed into a much shorter space, and quite frankly, students seem to find it a far easier read. (I'm not sure why they have so much trouble with the translation of Gawain in the Norton, but a lot of them really seem to struggle with basic comprehension, so I'd be cautious about trying to cover it in one class period.)

I teach both, but at the expense of Milton, so I'm not sure you'd want to go for that particular tradeoff.

the rebel lettriste said...

Lanval offers its own pleasures--the octosyllabic couplet, Marie de France, Anglo-Norman traditions, the genre of the lai, the lovely gender inversion of the queen rescuing the knight.

SGGK is a dear fave. I haven't taught it in excerpt, because I usually just tackle the whole beast. I agree that the first Fitt is perhaps the most rich in terms of its descriptions/images/alliterative wallop. But Fitt Three features all that butchery, and the lady seducing Gawain in bed (she whispers, oh, dear one, why are you sleeping), the back-and-forth scene changing from boar hunt to bedroom.

The Norton translation is Borroff's, I think, and it's outdated. I prefer the Broadview version, because it's facing-page, and because I think the language is more ... tensile.

SGGK offers opportunity to talk about prosody as an English-qua-English phenomenon. It also has literature's first mention of a waterfall! And also provides grist for discussions of gender, homosociality, queerness. Carolyn Dinshaw has a decently teachable critical essay on those themes, actually.

In my surveys I teach Lanval and don't do SGGK, and then only do Books I and IX of PL, for wont of time. But I do hit up the Chaucer, and hard, in that class. ME recitation anyone?

ntbw said...

I can't imagine how to excerpt SGGK, because I'm so in love with how the text works as a whole. The symmetry! The interlacing! The formal elegance! I have been known to spend most of a class just on the first stanza of Fitt 1.

I always teach the whole of SGGK in my survey, but the survey I teach nowadays is a medieval literature survey, not the first "half" Brit lit survey (read, nearly 1000 years as compared to 350 or so in the second "half").

I like the idea of doing Lanval instead, since you're pressed for time. You could even do a couple of the Lais. Bisclavret is always fun, what with the werewolf and the nose removal. That would give you some of the more bizarre romance elements that you get with the whole Green Knight element in SGGK to pair with the Arthurian aspects that Lanval picks up.

Sulpicia said...

Much as I love SGGK, if you've only got one session, I'd be tempted to go for a text like The Kingis Quair, which is available online via TEAMS. The language is more accessible, and you could explore the ways it appropriates and reworks Boethian and Chaucerian themes, as well as its role as fictionalised autobiography. Alternatively, Robert Henryson's Testament of Cresseid? Also amazing, as well as being fairly short, and there are some helpful resources available here, including audio: Either would stress the British aspect of the survey course, too.

Renaissance Girl said...

RL: ME recitation: HELL yes!

Fretful: You KNOW I can't ditch Milton.

And while like LisaB I love SGGK (as cool Medievalists apparently call it), I'm persuaded by your collective resistance to excerpting. I really can't ditch anything else from the schedule, or else it will turn into the Medieval and Renaissance Survey And Nothing Good Was Written After 1670 Anyway, Right? class. Which, you know, is a fair account of things, but I have my departmental marching orders.

I'm liking the Lanval idea. And I'm going to do my homework on TKQ, too, Sulpicia, because it sounds like I might be able to use it a bit to complicate Kempe, not to mention the CT narrator. My students want to believe that every literary I is an authentic, sincere I, and I want to have that issue up for grabs before we get to Wyatt.

Thanks, thanks, thanks for this, everyone. Very much appreciated.

Sulpicia said...

Yay to TKQ! It is great for thinking about autobiography, especially because some of the early crit is so keen on treating it as a historical document. Let me know if you want any bibliographic suggestions - TKQ's a bit of a research obsession of mine.