Thursday, March 25, 2010

Formal Complaint

It is somewhat aggravating to read an entire chapter about the symbolism of the color green in Gawain and the Green Knight only to come to these final sentences: "The pentangle is a symbol because the poet tells us so. As for green, who knows?"

If Derek Brewer, revered medievalist, doesn't know, nobody knows and nobody will ever know. By the same token, if Derek Brewer doesn't know, probably nobody ever knew, which means he is right, but I'm still annoyed.

This is nearly on par with what someone once wrote about a section of the Morte Darthur in which Malory tries to make some grand statements about love that apparently don't make sense. (I say apparently because the Morte Darthur is long and I never made it that far.) C. David Benson briefly discusses this in his essay, calling in another expert when it gets rough: "Roger Sherman Loomis, in a critical move that would solve many other literary cruxes, suggested that the author might have been drunk when he wrote it."

If I had known that options of saying "I have no idea" and "the poet was soused" were available to me as tools of critical analysis, my senior thesis would have been a lot easier.

However, Brewer's chapter did yield this instructive item: the color green is evidently suitable for the clothing of young married people, and parrots.

This post has been brought to you by the massive collection of criticism on the Arthurian legends that I own in spite of always having preferred, given a choice of mythical English heroes, Robin Hood. Who, so I hear, wore a lot of green. Did you ever notice that Douglas Fairbanks had unusually long arms? The author may be drunk.

5 comments:

Pandora said...

I suggest that green is traditionally associated with growth, nature, newness, and life. And if that works for you, then I declare it to be true. For that is my power as older sister....and clearly the only remotely sober person associated with this discussion thus far, aside from Simon. Although I do think you should have thrown a line in your thesis about how you didn't know on account of having been soused from start to finish. Just for the reaction.

Maeve said...

Really? We still can't figure that out?

Simon said...

Well, I think we can figure out what Pandora said above -- that green certainly has some established associations. But the question of why the poet gave Bertilak green SKIN, when he had never had green skin before, remains unanswered. Derek Brewer suggests that green is really the only color that gives the desired amiguous effect. But it's still ambiguous. Which is probably the point.

just megan. said...

How much do I want to read this book?

http://www.amazon.com/Key-Green-Passion-Perception-Renaissance/dp/0226763781/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269997316&sr=8-1

Simon said...

DO YOU KNOW WHAT I LOVE. THE HISTORY OF COLOR AND ALL THINGS RELATED TO COLOR. THERE SHOULD BE MORE BOOKS ON THIS. MAYBE THERE ARE. I AM VERY EXCITED HENCE EXCESSIVE USE OF CAPITALS.