Of the substantial volume that Malory offers in reflection and addition to the texts we've already read, one point and section I find especially fascinating (and gut-churning) is "Of Nenive and Morgan le Fay" starting on page 58. As we discussed at great length in our class covering Merlin in the Lancelot Grail reader and other texts, Merlin is a complex and highly variable character. In a previous response, I emphasized the duality of his roles, particularly in his relationships to women. In previous texts, I found that for the most part he was either teacher or elder to magic and wisdom wielding women or more of a perverse creepy uncle/tutor figure. In Malory, Merlin outdoes himself acting as both while he teaches as well as obsesses over women who seek to obtain power through his teachings. Through a feminist lens, this is made all the more uncomfortable as Arthur offers nothing but bitter parting words and clear expressions of affection to Merlin when departs. This gives Merlin additional power and validation through his proximity to Arthur upon his departure, and acts symbolically as a stamp of approval for Merlin's complete and complex character. I think perhaps an element of what made this more challenging as a reader is that having been a woman in academia, this experience and portrayal in which a at times reasonable or at least knowledgeable man who acts as a teacher is given power and kudos even when having questionable attitudes or motivations towards being around women is not surprising at all, and perhaps an indication of this power dynamic between gender and knowledge being present as early as the Arthurian context. Arthur, being the king of kings in this text sides with Merlin, and following the Me Too movement, this does not bode well for the romanticized image of Chivalry.
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