Genre as Context in the Alliterative Morte Arthure
Arthuriana 20.2 (2010)
Genre remains an important context for teaching and understanding literature. The genre of the Alliterative Morte is epic-heroic. This genre is dominated by a focus on heroes and their concern with honor, glory and martial achievement. Such values and heroes have potentially tragic consequences, but such tragedy and the genre which surrounds it are celebrating, not condemning, Arthurian heroism and martial deeds.
All literary criticism is dependent upon contexts: that of the critic if nothing else, but also that of the original author and text. To take a notable example from Greek Drama, the comic poet Aristophanes probably would not have written so many plays devoted to pan-Hellenic peace had he not been writing during the destruction and divisiveness of the Peloponnesian War. Or, to take a medieval Arthurian example, the tragic emphases and simultaneously positive and negative portrayal of warfare in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur no doubt owe something to the turmoil of the equally divisive Hundred Years War and Wars of the Roses, against which bloody backdrops Malory assembled and created his Arthuriad