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Lecture Notes by Linda A. Malcor


Part I: Lecture notes on the Alliterative and Stanzaic Morte,
and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

I. Alliterative Morte, ca. 1360

A. 2 parts: Continental campaign, Mordred. 2 parts of Fortune: Up and Down
Last two battles in traditional sequence of battles.

B. Highly Masculine. Heroic spirit, usually neglecting elements of courtly love, etc., such as found in Chrétien. Emphasis on chronology and detail as well as episodes chosen indicate indebtedness to chronicles as developed by Geoffrey and Layamon.

C. Elaborate descriptions of banquets and exaggeration (number of men killed) recall romances.

D. Arthur's dream: Mary/Fortune, exemplifies religious and secular traditions of Arthur. E. Mordred's character

1. warns Arthur not to leave him in charge.

2. remorse at death of Gawain.

3. Sleepwalks through actionsonce set in motion, ceases to be actively malevolent.

4. Letter to Guinevere--concerned only with her safety.

F. Two swords: War and peace, Caliburn and Clarent. Elsewhere in tradition notion of two Excaliburs.

G. Paralleling of Gawain and Christ. Gawain's rash behavior, brilliant and valiant but disastrous and fatal.

H. Although touched by Supernatural elements, Celtic magic is missing. Avalon is simply an island near Glastonbury rather than Otherworld. Layamon's mystical sea voyage vs. burial and Requiem Mass. traditional promise of Arthur's return.

I. Arthur as historical figure who triumphed, sinned, and fell from Fortune. Christian morality primary emphasis.

II. Stanzaic Morte--1400

A. Lancelot and the Queen

B. Gawain--greater than Arthur, but taking a back seat to Lancelot. In section not printed, Gawain tries to steal the maid of Astalot's affection and his actions result in her death, Gawain's stubbornness regarding the destruction of Lancelot results in Gawain's own death.

C. Arthur weaker, allows Round Table to decline. Mordred's betrayal seems to be a judgment against Arthur. Note that even though the ill-fated love affair between Guinevere and Lancelot aids the decline of the Round Table, Arthur himself is blamed for the ultimate destruction.

D. Note Arthur dreams of Gawain, not Mary/Fortune.

E. Arthur bargains with Mordred, strength rather than weakness.

F. Sword into Lake sequence. Queens in boat. Note Tomb in chapel. Return only implied.

III. Gawain and the Green Knight.

A. Feast.

B. Beheading Game, Gawain as Champion (no Lancelot)

C. Gawain's Quest--Mary as Gawain's Lady

D. Bargain with host (exchange of receipts)

E. Bercilak hunts animals, Lady hunts Gawain.

Deer, Boar, Fox.

G. Gawain withholds gains on last Day (Belt)

H. Meeting with the Green Knight.

Scratch on neck.

I. Old Woman as Morgan. Morgan as tester of Arthur's Knights. Keeps Camelot on its toes.

J. Return to court. Gawain tries to wallow in shame. Arthur transforms item of shame into badge of praise--Arthur doesn't get the message. Blind to own fate. Doomed.


Part II: Lecture notes on the Grail

I. Many Interps. Cover a few today.

II. Christian Interp.

A. Joseph of Arimathea carries Grail (Cup of the Last Supper) to Glastonbury. Notice that with Boron women (except for Grail maidens/nuns) vanish from narrative.

B. (Pass out handout) Grail Keeper, Fisher King, Maimed/Wounded King, Quest: Grail Knights (Bors--one flaw--married, Perceval--naive, Galahad--chaste), Grail disappears, destruction of Round Table. Lancelot the almost Grail Knight (tension). Gawain.

C. The tradition continues: Lohengrin. Grail knights return to help people in distress.

III. Celtic Interp.--Loomis

A. Celtic Cauldrons--Spoils of Annwn (rebirth)

B. Dagda's Cauldron (food, fertility), spear and sword of Lugh, Stone of Fal.

C. Peredur (post-Chrétien, Welsh parallel) cup with healing ointment, revive dead men, food, spear and other talismans in disjointed stories.

IV. Myth-Ritualism--Weston.

A. Grail as female, Spear as Male.

B. Fertility ritual rediscovered and practiced by Crusaders.

C. Wounded King's "thighs"--Wasteland. Water Heals the Land, King = Land, King Healed (Excalibur).

V. Holy Blood, Holy Grail--cover-up, crucifixion hoax, Grail as metaphor for Christ. Templars in possession of Temple treasure and genealogy of descendants of Christ.

VI. Tarot

A. Gospel of Bartholomew--21 words, Arcane

B. Cups (Grail), Swords (sword), Rods (Spear), Pentacles.

C. Mystery behind the cards, no longer able to interpret.

VII. Historical Interp. (Raid on Temple, Sack of Rome, Cup in Gaul.)

VIII. Nartyamonga

A. Stories of Cup.

B. Treasures and Sacred Cup.


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