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Re-reading Through Return in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Some Late Medieval Carols

Re-reading Through Return in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Some Late Medieval Carols

Steer, Alex

Marginalia, Vol. 2, Cambridge Yearbook (2004-2005)

Abstract

From its opening line, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight demonstrates an interest in time: its passage, events and record. It begins with a marking of time which is also an ending: ‘Siþen the sege and þe assaut watz sesed at Troye’ (1) , its past tense representing ‘the slamming shut of a volume of history’. The movement of time (and grammar) from present to past is an ‘assaut’ on Troy as much as anything, yet language also marks time and what is lost in its passing. This poem, most often categorised as a courtly romance, at first positions itself as an intact verbal structure against the movement and ‘askez’ of time, yet cannot do so for long…

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