From Pearl to Gawain
Forme to Fynisment
AUTHOR: Blanch, Robert J. and Wasserman, Julian N.
PUBLISHER: University Press of Florida
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"Exciting insights and ideas. . . . Offers a provocative argument for the aesthetic significance of the four poems taken as a whole."--Martin B. Shichtman, Eastern Michigan University
"The authors' respective careers' worth of study of this poet. . . gives their joined critical voices tremendous authority and an almost unmatched knowledge of the history of critical opinion relevant to the issues being discussed."--Lorraine K. Stock, University of Houston
Despite lip service to the proposition that the Pearl manuscript is the product of a single author, critics usually treat the four poems as isolated entities. The two authors of this work--who individually and together have produced a formidable body of research, criticism, and bibliographic study of this anonymous fourteenth-century poet--set forth a different thesis. They assume not only that the works share a common author but that they are connected and intersect in fundamental ways.
They begin with the observation that the four Cotton Nero poems, taken together, extend from Creation to the Apocalypse and then transcendence to the heavenly Jerusalem. Comprising the entire scope of "History," the poems share a Creator whose active intervention in human affairs bespeaks a providential history that is the product of divine Will. Beginning with this premise, the authors discuss a series of interrelated themes (language, covenants, miracles, the iconography of the hand, and the role of the intrusive narrator) that successively arise from their initial observation. Every discussion treats all four poems, using each individual work to gloss the others.
While this study builds on centuries of previous scholarship, much of what Blanch and Wasserman explore has never been discussed elsewhere. Some of the material--in particular their reading of the Green Knight's offer of weapons to Arthur's court, and the thematic significance of moral "handiwork" in the Gawain poems--not only breaks new ground but challenges accepted interpretations.
Robert J. Blanch, professor of English at Northeastern University, Boston, is editor of Sir Gawain and Pearl and author of an annotated bibliography on Gawain. Julian N. Wasserman is professor of English at Loyola University, New Orleans. He is cofounder and associate editor of Exemplaria and the author of many books and articles on medieval and modern literature. Both are widely associated with Pearl-Poet criticism. Blanch is current president of the Pearl-Poet Society; Wasserman is past president. Both were contributors to the MLA volume Approaches to Teaching Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and, most recently, they published an overview of Gawain criticism in Chaucer Review.
PUBLICATION DATE: 4/20/1995
CATEGORY: Language Arts & Disciplines, Literary Criticism, Poetry, Social Science