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Introduction: Medieval by a Month

  • Kenneth Hodges
Part of the Studies in Arthurian and Courtly Cultures book series (SACC)

Abstract

Sir Thomas Malory hammered together many sources to forge his Morte Darthur, from English alliterative poetry to French romance, but he did not seamlessly integrate his material. Instead, he leaves the welds visible, revealing the diversity in his sources. C.S. Lewis damns the resulting style with faint praise:

Malory’s greatest original passages arise when he is most completely absorbed in the story and realizes the characters so fully that they begin to talk for him of their own accord; but they talk in a language he has largely learned from his sources. The very ease with which he wanders away from this style into that of some inferior source or into a language of his own … suggests that he hardly knows what he is doing …. He has no style of his own, no characteristic manner …. In a style or styles so varied, everywhere so indebted to others, and perhaps most original precisely where it is most indebted, one cannot hopefully seek l’homme même. Here also Malory vanishes into a mist.1

Keywords

Round Table Modern Nation Ideological Center Literary Style Fundamental Ideology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    “The English Prose Morte,” Essays on Malory, ed. J.A.W. Bennett (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), pp. 23–24.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mikhail Bakhtin, “From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse,” The Dialogic Imagination, ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), pp. 47–49. Emphasis in the original.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Catherine Batt, Malory’s Morte Darthur: Remaking Arthurian Tradition (New York: Palgrave, 2002).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Mikhail Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel,” The Dialogic Imagination, ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), pp. 376–86.Google Scholar
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  7. 8.
    See Richard W. Kaeuper, Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999);Google Scholar
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  10. 10.
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  12. 11.
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  14. 12.
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  15. 14.
    Knighthood in the Morte Darthur, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 1992).Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    Donald Hoffman, “Perceval’s Sister: Malory’s ‘Rejected’ Masculinities,” Arthuriana 6.4 (1996): 73–83.Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    Elizabeth Edwards, The Genesis of Narrative in Malory’s Le Morte Darthur (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 2001), p. 72. Dorsey Armstrong modifies this formulation, giving greater precedence to the Round Table oath, which, she argues, establishes standards for chivalry and gender that are then tested and refined throughout the text. See Armstrong, Gender and the Chivalric Community in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003), pp. 29–30.Google Scholar
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  19. 18.
    The Book of Fayttes of Armes and Chyualrye, trans. William Caxton, ed. A.T.P. Byles, EETS o.s. 189 (London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1932).Google Scholar
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    The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, 3rd ed., ed. Eugene Vinaver, rev. P.J.C Field (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990) 486–88; IX.13–14. After the page number, I cite the book and chapter number according to Caxton. Hereafter, Malory will be cited parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    See, for instance, Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Refections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, 2nd ed. (London: Verso, 1991);Google Scholar
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  26. 23.
    See, for instance, Imagining a Medieval English Nation, ed. Kathy Lavezzo (Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 2004);Google Scholar
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    L.O. Aranye Fradenburg, “Pro Patria Mori,” Imagining a Medieval English Nation, ed. Kathy Lavezzo (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), pp. 3–38.Google Scholar
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    For more background on affinities, see Rosemary Horrox, “Service,” Fifteenth-Century Attitudes, ed. Rosemary Horrox (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 61p–78; and Richard III: A Study of Service (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1989). For an analysis of the role of affinities in Le Morte Darthur, seeGoogle Scholar
  34. Hyonjin Kim, The Knight Without the Sword: A Social Landscape of Malorian Chivalry (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 2000), pp. 55–99. For their significance in the life of one of the possible authors of Le Morte Darthur, seeGoogle Scholar
  35. P.J.C. Field, The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 1993), pp. 48p–51 and elsewhere.Google Scholar
  36. 28.
    Although Edward IV and Henry VII both claimed to be descendants of Arthur, such claims were not central to their royal images: see Sydney Anglo, Images of Tudor Kingship (London: Seaby 1992), pp. 40–60.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kenneth Hodges 2005

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  • Kenneth Hodges

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