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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Broadview Literary Texts) Paperback – 1 Jul 1992

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Broadview Press Ltd; New edition edition (1 July 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0921149921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0921149927
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 0.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 468,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

"This is the best translation of Sir Gawain. It has the taughtness and vigor of the original, and it shares that Gawain-poet's almost miraculous ability to make the remote world of Arthurian romance immediate to the reader."--Gordon Teskey

About the Author

The late James Winny's many other publications include Chaucer's Dream Poems and editions of five of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JB TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 April 2013
Format: Paperback
It's thought that the Gawain poet was roughly contemporary with Chaucer, but if you're familiar with Chaucer you'll find some differences between the two. Chaucer's language is that of London and southern England, whereas here we have the rich dialect of the north-west, with a splintering of Scandinavian and Old Norse, plus Norman French (mainly reserved for the language of courtly love).

The image of the Green Knight seated on his horse at the court of Arthur is surely one of the most startling and enduring in English literature, yet the story of which it is part is possibly less well-known. The construction of the work is intriguing: one hundred and one stanzas (to represent the year-and-a-day which the Green Knight allows Gawain before their next meeting, at which Gawain must accept a blow from the Knight's axe). Within the stanzas the lines are carefully structured, and alliteration is used to for emphasis. Having such a treasure-trove of vocabulary available, the Gawain poet dazzles us with literary jewels, making this a heady draught.

James Winny provides the ideal format for reading the poem, with the original faced by a straightforward and literal translation which doesn't attempt to reproduce the alliterative dimension. His introduction is a fascinating insight into the translator's challenges and the additional couple of stories give some interesting background to the poem.
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By Whiskey Fan on 28 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback
The chief virtue of this rather sorry edition is that Winny has left the original text almost intact. Modern letters have replaced older thorn, etc., but otherwise it's there. The line numbers make referencing easy. The cover's nice.

Right, that's the praise done with.

Beyond that it's a travesty of many kinds. Winny's introduction is dismissive and hubristic, suggesting the dialect of the piece to be 'outlandish', amongst other things. Just because this isn't Chaucer. Well, apologies to Winny for the fact that there is a great variety of language in this country, and has been for a very long time. Deal with it.

Then there's his dull, pedestrian, and stilted translation, a turgid effort that is belittled by dangling opposite the original like some stale sock with a fancy pattern on it. You know the ones. You get them for Christmas. There's no life to his version. There's no sense of it being a poem at all, really, except for the schoolboy rhymes wedged in every now and again.

His notes are acceptable, the appendices superfluous.

Don't waste your money. Get the more properly scholarly Tolkien edition and put some work in.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was needed for my daughters course work. It arrived pretty quickly, but was packaged quite badly and pretty creased on some of the pages and the front cover, which was a bit of a shame.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Content Not Sacrificed for Form 24 Mar. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is my favorite edition of _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ not only because it is a fine poem, but also because the facing-page layout allows Winny to translate very accurately. The introduction to the poem and to Winny's translation of it is excellent, and discusses why he chooses not to translate within the confines of the formal characteristics of the poem in the original. Also, there are textual notes, a section discussing certain words in the poet's vocabulary that present significant difficulties for translators, and two appendices containing Arthurian analogues: Fled Briend/Bricriu's Feast and from Le Chevalier a L'Epee/The Knight of the Sword.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Has both Middle English and modern English 7 Aug. 2011
By Jeremy Richmond - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This translation of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" has alternating the original Middle English on the left page and a modern English translation by James Winny on the right page. The translation is well done and it retains the Medieval feel of the original author. I have no intention of learning the northern dialect of Middle English but it was interesting to look at the language and see what it was like.

"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" was written in the 1300s and it is written in the form of a poem. It starts out at the court of King Arthur on New Year's Day. A green knight shows up and asks if anyone at the court will give a blow with a battle-axe that day and receive a blow with it twelve months and a day later. Arthur agrees to do it but Sir Gawain steps in and offers to do it instead. The green knight receives the blow by Gawain which cuts off his head. The green knight picks up his head and tells Gawain to fulfill his promise by seeking him out at the Green Chapel to receive a blow from the battle-axe in return. Sir Gawain then leaves King Arthur's court to find the Green Chapel and fulfill his promise.

The poem "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is different from other Arthurian works. It is more barbaric and earthier. In some respects it is like other Arthurian works in that it romanticizes the mythical era of King Arthur portraying it as a time of luxury. My impression when reading the poem was that the scenery in Britain is quite beautiful. I hope to go to Britain one day.

Themes found in the poem include a praise of courage. The poem also stresses however that one should not be too courageous. Resisting temptation is also a theme of the poem. The resistance of temptation is the main part of the story. The poem doesn't shy away from detailing the attraction between men and women. The Christian notion that adultery is wrong is shown. The poem plays around with the concept of adultery making it out to be somewhat of a joke.

"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" also has a long part detailing the hunting of animals by a lord. The poem goes into so much detail describing the hunt that it is almost as if the poem is teaching the reader how to do it.

My conclusion upon reading "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is that it is a fine example of an Arthurian work. It has all the messages one would normally find in an Arthurian work. The poem toys with the idea of evil in a humorous way as Arthurian works generally do. For readers of Arthurian legend, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is an important work in the genre.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Laudable Work, with One Reservation 3 April 2015
By Artorius - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I appreciate Mr. Winny's time and efforts to produce a "bilingual" edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. No stranger to the pitfalls of poetic translation, I prefer to have the original side-by-side with the modern English language rendering, as you get with this book. That way, I can quiet the academic growl in my head that remains skeptical of the inevitable poetic license the translator--by necessity--must take to adapt ancient words into modern parlance. My only complaint is that since the poem in its original is half the appeal of what this book promises, why modernize the letters? The Gawain poet's Middle English is already much more obscure to the modern reader than Chaucer's. Why not retain the yogh, the thorn, etc.? The target audience is already willing to climb the mountain, so why lop off the peak?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Read for a college course 23 Jun. 2011
By Aimee B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a really fascinating subversion of the tropes of courtly love. Roles generally given to women are given to religion, and quests that in earlier literature are completely external are internalized. I read this for a college course on Arthurian romances and it was definitely one of my favorite books we read. This version has the Middle English (which is difficult Middle English, by the way -- more difficult than Chaucer) on one page and a modern English translation on the facing page.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2+3=5 2 May 2009
By C. Liang - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I love this book! I just read it and it has so much symmetry and meaning related to the star which is Gawain's symbol on his shield. Came in fast, great and good book. I recommend it.

When you read the book, the left hand side is Middle English and the right hand side is the translation which makes it much more interesting!
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