Malory, Morte Darthur
Directions: After reading the lecture, answer the question below. This answer is due no later than Thursday, Mar. 8.
Your responses to other students' answers are due by midnight on Sunday, Mar. 11. Remember: in order to get the full 20 points, you MUST respond thoughtfully to at least 2 other people's postings.
This set of discussion questions is worth a possible 20 points. Late answers receive 0 points, so post early :)
We will be using the Canvas Discussion Board for this class. Click on the link below to get to the Canvas portal, sign in, and then click on the box for this class. You will find the "Discussions" link on the left side of the screen:
In his book, Morte Darthur, John Finlayson shows that there were two types of Arthurian tales circulating by the end of the 12th century: the romance, and the chanson de geste, which was more in the Heroic tradition. Finlayson details the differences between the two types:
- Both have in common certain values, such as courage, loyalty, honor, and skill in arms.
- In the chanson de geste, those values are associated mostly with war. Valor--sometimes immoderate valor--is the essential ingredient of a warrior's character; this valor is displayed in the cause of his king, who is usually portrayed as the supreme champion of Christianity. In the romance, the characteristic considered most important is "courtoisie," courtly manners and adherence to ethics (such as we saw in Sir Gawain). And the knight most often acts in the service of a Lady.
- In the chanson de geste the group is dominant; a knight may have individual exploits, but he considers himself first to be fighting for the glory of his group. In the romance, the hero's exploits have very little to do with the group; he is distinct from his social setting, and the sentiment of feudal loyalty plays very little part. He wins renown for himself, not to further a larger social or political cause.
- Both heroes are known for their prowess, but the hero of the chanson de geste displays his prowess in a public context, while the romance hero does so solely in pursuit of a private ideal.
- Realism is unimportant in the romance; setting, characters, and actions need not be realistic. In the chanson de geste, there is an attempt to adhere to actual political, social, and geographic conditions.
- By Finlayson's standards, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight would be an example of romance, while the values of the chanson de geste would be more in keeping with the Heroic Ideal as seen in Beowulf (although he is not saying that Beowulf is a chanson de geste).
Finlayson argues that Morte Darthur is not really a romance; that it is more in line with the traditions of the chanson de geste--that is, that the values it expresses have more in common with Beowulf than with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Based on the sections of Morte Darthur we have read, do you agree? Give specific examples and quotes from the reading to support your position.
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