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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
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Arthurian > Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Context

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message 1: by Lia (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’s adapted Old English meter tends to connect the two halves of each poetic line through alliteration, or repetition of consonants. The poem also uses rhyme to structure its stanzas, and each group of long alliterative lines concludes with a word or phrase containing two syllables and a quatrain—known together as the “bob and wheel.” The phrase “bob and wheel” derives from a technique used when spinning cloth—the bobs and wheels in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight help to spin the plot and narrative together in intricate ways. They provide commentaries on what has just happened, create or fulfill moments of suspense, and serve as transitions to the next scene or idea.”


It’s so interesting that the metaphor of cloth-spinning as story-telling persists, from Homer’s time, through Ovid’s, all the way down to fourteenth century. We still say “spinning tales” as a figure of speech, but it seems it used to be far more prominent as a literary device, so much so that its rhythm and techniques shaped poetry structure.


message 2: by Lia (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
About Pre-Industrial Societies

These [pre-industrial] societies, fourteenth-century England among them, [...] are small agrarian-based societies, hierarchical, accepting inequalities, conservative, authoritarian and patriarchal; with primitive technology, low productivity and no obvious means of improving it. They live in a world of struggle and extremes, never far from famine, surrounded by death, where feast and fast, enemy and friend, death and laughter, are closely bound together (Camporesi 1989, 2930, 43).Such societies, though deeply enmeshed in material circumstances over which they have little or no control the weather, the success of crops, disease and death respond with a sense of mystery to a universe which contains forces beyond their knowledge and control, which they must co-operate with and accept, or hope to propitiate, or manage by non-material means like prayer. Only occasionally, as in feasts, can they arise above that natural world of which they are ineluctably a part, yet they sense a spiritual reality working behind and through nature [...] These traditional societies are so to say soaked in religion[...] Prayers For Rain; For fair Weather; In the time of Dearth and Famine; In the time of War and Tumults; In the time of any common Plague or Sickness, all following the Litany with its comprehensive set of requests, give a very fair cross-section of the concerns of a traditional agrarian community, such as is represented by the Gawain-poet.

Religion in these communities is both more and less materialistic, more and less spiritual, than such fragments of a religious view as remain in post-industrial society. Atheism is inconceivable, God is near: Gawain rides with 'no man but God'; Jonah has a continuous argument with God; God writes mysteriously on palace walls;imperiously summons men to a banquet.
Source: A Companion to the Gawain-Poet

That seems apt for Homer as well as Gawain’s social world.


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