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Cultures courtoises en mouvement

Isabelle Arseneau
Francis Gingras

Les langues de la courtoisie

Courtesy at the Limits of Language: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Petya Ivanova

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Extrait du texte

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a fourteenth-century masterpiece which stages a courtly game of beheading challenging the performance of Arthur’s most courteous knight – Sir Gawain.1 In this paper I consider Gawain’s enactment of courtesy as a social script, and the complexity of human experience conveyed by the ending of the poem when the referential framework of courtly value reaches its limits, thus exposing and transforming the impulse for making meaning into a new shape of existence.

Critics have pointed out the open-endedness of the poem, articulated around the multiple significance of the green girdle,2 the oddity of Gawain’s antifeminist rant,3 and the resourcefulness of an ongoing fictionalizing process.

Whereas Gawain excels in the performance of the ideal of courtliness, by the end of the poem and throughout the kinesic exchanges accompanying his suspended decapitations, the very notion together with the conceptual framework of chivalry is suspended. The embodied action ...


Université de Genève

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