Class 14 – SGGK, Weird Reading, and Ecowrap up


What you see above is most of today. We started by talking about Kzoo; everyone’s encouraged to review the #kzoo2014 twitter hashtag, and to get a sense of the volume and connections of tweets from here. Then we talked about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, surely one of the most taught Middle English texts (for example, here’s the first page of my Borroff translation from 2 years ago; even more crowded now). We covered some of the key ways it’s often taught: pagan and Christian and ‘vernacular Christianities’, focusing on the green belt, Solomon’s pentangle, and invocations like “Cros Kryst me spede“; gender and genealogy, with the former concentrating on Morgan’s control of the narrative, and the latter on Morgan’s connections to both Arthur and Gawain and, eventually, Mordred; queer sexhostipitality, and feminist critiques of supposedly gender neutral discussions of hospitality (see McCracken here); and Aeneas’s treachery at Troy, with the ambiguity of “was tried for his tricherie, the trewest on erthe.”

But then we got ecocritical, with discussions of humeral and astrological theory, the horses and the ‘becoming horse’ of knights, the ‘desert’ that’s actually prolific with more life than can be handled (greener than you think!) and the ‘great outdoors’, and, of course, the butchering of the animals, with the move towards animals that are less and less receptive to ‘getting along with’ humans, concluding with the fox as the great outdoors of animals, vulnerable, useless, and clever.

And then the board happened! Above, our semester.

hirsch-600Yesterday my Comp Lit course finished up Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Among other things, I stressed the unresolved hybridities of the “Chapel” in Fitt IV: its combination of natural and architecture features, the hole in the hill as a sanctified hermit hole (I reminded them of the cave at the end of Hartmann von Aue’s Gregorius) and as otherworldly entrance, Hautdesert as the “desert” of the wild Welsh wilderness and as the “desert” as the place of the saints, the green sash on Gawain himself as binding him to the natural world of the Green Knight (and Morgan) and to the culture of textiles and clothing, &c &c. You know the drill.

And then I opened it to questions, and a student, always a careful reader, asked [not an exact quote]: “Why two holes? Do otherworldly entrances normally have two entrances, or an entrance and an exit?” The line she meant is SGGK IV.2180:

Hit [the chapel mound] hade a hole on þe ende and on ayþer syde,
(It had a hole at one end, and there was one at the other)

My response? “The otherworldly entrances I know have only the one hole, so I don’t know…..I’ll ask an expert.” By expert I mean you. Any suggestions?