I’ve been a little silent these past few weeks, but if I may, I’d like to let my creative juices flow.
I don’t usually like theories about literature (especially something as old and unknown as Gawain), but I find myself thinking of the scenarios that led to the events in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Asking so broad a question can sometimes be daunting and other times be just silly. Sometimes that kind of questions is so vast that it actually does more harm than good in a meaningful literary discussion. Who cares if Peter was actually Mrs. Darling’s child that died and is trapped in limbo? A lot of people do. It seems that some get caught up in the idea that Chuckie is the only one of The Rugrats that is actually alive and they don’t notice the other important themes of gender and parenting in the show. But people like talking about these theories! They seem to flood our Facebook news feeds and lead to shady websites selling God knows what, but at least they start an important dialogue to think more creatively about the media that shapes our lives. Literary criticism, after all, uses different theories to look at a text. If we think critically, we can start to question our notions about the things that we as humans produce.
So that gets me to Gawain. We mentioned in class that Arthurian legend is like fanfiction. It exists only because readers and listeners of stories started to create their own. I am a strong believer that books (among other things) belong to their readers. So how might I go about writing my own fanfic for Arthur? It, in essence, would be a theory that I devise and then apply to my own story about previously created characters and places. What if the only way to win Arthur’s (totally not-platonic) love was to prove that he is manly enough to take on the Green Knight’s challenge? Their romantic endeavors could be explored in a hot and heavy battle against the forces of the Fairy World. Maybe the Green Knight is actually Gawain’s son that is a time traveler (timey-wimey). I’m not sure if any of these make sense, but I don’t think that’s the point. Storytellers didn’t seem to care what is and what isn’t canonical. They just wrote a story that allowed their voice to be heard in this mass of Arthurian mythology. I think that is what is so special about humans. It’s why we all use the internet. We can add our thoughts with other billions of people to create social movements or raise money for an important cause. I don’t want to understate the importance that I think community has in writing and creating new things. Literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum to be consumed into nothingness like everything else in this world. If you want the Green Knight to be an illusion that only Gawain can see and everyone else just goes along with his delusion because he’s actually a patient in a mental ward and Arthur is his doctor, then go for it! Save that for posterity.
What’s a theory that you have about anything that we’ve read?
This is a super great article! In August, archaeologists uncovered a site of about fifty graves near the medieval city of Lichfield. It was a place that pilgrims traveled to because it housed the tomb of St. Chad. I just wanted to share this article because it noted the great lengths that pilgrimages could be. Last class we discussed the distance that Gowther ran for penitence. Because this was something that people just did, it amazes me to think about the possibility of making a pilgrimage now. Can you imagine how much work and class you would miss? The archaeologists also note the importance of the skeletons’ teeth because it can give us more insight to the diets of 12th century people in England.
I know we’re heading into Middle English, but I really had to share this article. This Anglo-Saxon scholar has been studying the use of Hebrew language in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. Often the monks that wrote these manuscripts would just make up words and letters in Hebrew. Apparently Damian Fleming is making an announcement on October 28th that will change the way that we think about English interest in religion and other languages. Usually the Renaissance period is given credit for giving importance to Hebrew in England, but we have to assume that scholars were always interested in other languages. And to the point about falsifying Hebrew letters or just making them up: maybe we don’t know these letters, but the Anglo-Saxon monks knew about them. We’ve seen how in English (during even the same time periods), words are spelled differently. How can we ever be sure that people are just attempting to be intelligent?
I got to an interesting (to say the least) part of YouTube and found this video. An indie rock band put out an EP in 2004 called The Tain and it consists of just one eighteen-minute song. The lyrics do not seem to have anything to do with the original story of The Táin, but the music video that accompanies it uses silhouette images and text to tell the tale. What interests me most is the representation of Cuchulainn (as it’s spelled here). I’ve looked up a view images of him and I love his Dragonball-esque hair and style. I was hoping that someone could open a dialogue with me on the meaning of this animation. I can’t stop watching it because I can’t tell if it’s amazing or awful. My favorite things about reading The Táin are the layers and complexities that are sometimes unapparent in other Medieval texts. It’s as much about pride and heroism as it is about femininity, empire and fidelity. It takes on various perspectives often questioning a monarch’s right to rule and right to take what they wish to be theirs. With no dialogue, it’s hard for this video version to encompass all of that, but it does really get to the heart of the importance of the Irish landscape.
Here’s a cool rendering of Cu Chulainn that I found on DeviantArt.
I found this video on YouTube that is tied to our previous discussion on Marie de France. The creators claim that they take two of Marie de France’s lais and condenses them into thirty seconds. They both go well past that limit, but I think the concept is noteworthy. The first that they adapt is Equitan which is followed by Laustic. One of the things that we touched on just briefly in class is the short length of these writings (especially when compared to a text like The Owl and the Nightingale). The ending of Laustic seems curt and almost laughably simple, but the text isn’t (and wasn’t) the thing. As we said, it’s the discussions after a lai that really get to the heart of an issue. It’s almost as if there would be a hypothetical problem told to an audience and it’s up to them to argue about what side they’re on. That’s where I think these silly – albeit fun – adaptations get us. One of the writers tells us that the moral of Laustic is to “lie convincingly to your husband because the better your lie, the better your lays. *Too big of a wink*” (Get it?) If someone would like to comment on that, feel free. There’s a whole layer to just figuring out the possible moral of the story. I do enjoy these reworkings because they start a discourse on adultery (they focus on the ‘sleeping together’ a lot) or whether or not it actually was. Enjoy!
In line with the Virgin Mary, new research by Stanford history Professor Fiona Griffiths claims the spiritual superiority of females in the church over the male clergy in medieval Europe. The research focuses on the 11th and 12th centuries, but I really have a problem with the assumption that just because male leaders in the church “admired” (a few asexual, pious) women, it means that the hierarchy was changed. As we see in our readings, women with any power were not womanly and were a threat to the social order. The article does claim that some women (I emphasize “some” because it is clearly not toppling patriarchal rule) were served by men who spent their whole lives doing that. I wouldn’t mind a new look at history that examines the way men and women worked together, but we still need to acknowledge that it was during a time of uncontested, deep social hierarchies with maleness on top.