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Andrea CL
Nov 11, 2021
In Arthurian Legends & Romance
Reading through the handout on knighthood, as well as the readings over the past couple of weeks and then the first half of the semester, I feel like there's been a lot of versatility and complexity to what does and does not constitute knightlyness. Recently, I watched the new movie of the Green Knight, and felt really alarmed and unsettled by how strongly the movie challenged and changed the way that I thought about knighthood, heroics, and Sir Gawain. Without diving into the ways the filmed changed things from the poem or the plot stuff, the major complex that I grappled with during and after watching the movie is what it means to be courageous, and what that is worth in the context of the text itself. What is the value of courage or honor if you die before you can utilize it to help others and how does this relate to knighthood? The movie also had lots of religious images and iconography, but felt to me like it distanced itself or made the connections to service in the name of God or for the church less clear. I liked and appreciated the commentary it had on class and other things, but the interpretation of Gawain (excellent acting and handsome actor aside) felt so counterintuitive from the characterization of him from all the texts that we've read that it literally changed the way I viewed the framework for chivalry and the Arthurian context entirely. I don't know that this is a bad thing, but it made me super aware of how strongly I identify and define these distinctions after all the texts that we've read and how concrete my ideas are without having deliberately constructed them for myself. The juxtaposition I think of a lot of those given values (like those described at various stages in the handout) to the critique offered in the film i watched just made it a lot more clear how strongly I have opinions on elements of the genre, and of characterizations that I did not expect to react to so viserally.
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Andrea CL
Nov 03, 2021
In Arthurian Legends & Romance
Something I found very effective in Mallory's text, is the way that he is able to immediately elevate Sir Gareth by his association and then knighting by Sir Lancelot. Even from his first arrival at the court, still with his linage unknown, has the favor and care of both Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain. Malory's choice to explicitly state that Lancelot and Gawain even give him money so that he might be well dressed is an interesting choice. By providing for Gareth, Lancelot has in a fashion adopted him and taken him under wing even before Gareth asks Arthur to be knighted by Lancelot. Malory makes the most out of this association to elevate his fair unknown before his identity is even revealed, and who better could serve this purpose than Lancelot? Again, when Lancelot and Sir Gareth after Gareth strikes down Kay, their near matchedness elevates Sir Gareth's battle ability and nobility and the fact that his identity is sought after by Lancelot himself who pledges to knight him upon learning it, and who takes the time to establish explicitly that no other knight could question Gareth's worthiness maintains this status as well. Thinking back to the emphasis of Lancelot in the Vulgate cycle and the size of his chest, the emphasis of Gareth's hands would appear to be a similar symbolic fixture to his development, including the name given to him at the court. By being known by his hands, his ability to do work and control a great amount of power and strength is foreshadowed, and the hyperbolic strength and gruesome violence he wrecks on the multi-color coded knights is further evidence of this as a significant trait of Sir Gareth. In addition, I found amusement and fascination that in his requests, as well as his own marriage later, Sir Gareth is the only knight of the round table who knows what he wants and is actually satisfied when he gets it, which might be the wisest trait I've read in the entire canon.
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Andrea CL
Oct 28, 2021
In Arthurian Legends & Romance
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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Andrea CL
Oct 22, 2021
In Arthurian Legends & Romance
What I found most fascinating about the quest for the holy grail in the vulgate cycle, is how fruitless the pursuit feels in comparison to earlier texts and other quests. While understanding the intention of this to be a spiritual and enlightening quest that elevates the undergoers spiritually, the ultimate appeal or value of it in the framework of knighthood feels like an uncomfy fit. There are these major characters and figures from the Arthurian lore, like Lancelot, King Arthur, Gawain, Guinevere and ALL of them feel wrong in the context of this segment of the vulgate cycle. The puruist of the quest itself feels like an obscure and hollow mission with lots of holes in the logic behind pursuing it. As discussed in class, the probability for these knights of returning or serving is very low, and the benefits of achieving the grail is also certain death and in at least some part a due amount of suffering, so what is the point? Perhaps the largest issue I find with it is that Galahad, who is the grail knight in this rotation, doesn't really have to overcome ANYTHING to get the grail. He isn't conquering lust or physical desire, because he simply doesn't experience it. He isn't asserting himself as the best knight, he is just elevated to that position, and acts out wrathfully and violently with no penalty or consequence against proven knights who display the values of the code of chivalry and knighthood. Rather than being a Lancelot 2.0, I find him rather to be the anti-lancelot, as he lacks almost all the basic characteristics and charm which makes his father so legendary in the context of the Arthurian lore. Sure, he's the best, but why? He doesn't appear to put any serious work into becoming the best, where Lancelot has too big of a heart, Galadad doesn't seem to have any heart at all. Is this due to the circumstances of his conception? Or is it just bad writing? No one benefits from this quest, so how is then that it is knightly?
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Andrea CL
Oct 07, 2021
In Arthurian Legends & Romance
Something I appreciated and found interesting about The Lancelot-Grail Reader's first two parts was the detailed breakdown the Lady of the Lake provides Lancelot about what it takes to be a knight and the significance of each item. Personally, the iconography of a white knight has always been a singular image or symbol without any real depth for me in terms of the different elements which compose it and their connection both symbolically and practically to the code of chivalry and the pursuit of knighthood. The emphasis on different colors of armor also was fascinating, seeing how Lancelot begins as the white knight and then changes several times in the text indicates different phases of both his personal growth as a character as well as in his pursuit of knighthood. Lancelot's entire first questline, going to the Dolorous Castle and then hunting for the keys to the spells to free the castle and its people was clearly an inspiration for modern dungeon quest videogames such as Zelda which features aspects of Lancelot's own first quest. It includes keys, doors, spells, chests, animated metallic guardians that come to life and take a certain amount of life before defeat and grateful towns or castle people who praise the heroics of the knight (well laden with fancy equipment that gets continual upgrades and corresponding skills and confidence levels). Its exciting to consider that a text this old could be so influential to one of the most influential media forms of our era and to such a key character to the contemporary canon of pop culture.
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Andrea CL
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