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SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT Hardcover – 1983

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  • Hardcover
  • ASIN: B001ULQGV0
  • Product Dimensions: 26 x 16.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,130,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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book - folio

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 8 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
I agree with everything the previous reviewer has said about the poem itself, but this Oxford version is a rather loose translation that explicates much that is left either vaguer or more poetically-expressed in the original. As such, it's ok as a crib for students but is a little misleading in terms of the text. For the general reader, though, that's probably not a problem but I personally prefer the Penguin edition (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Penguin Classics)) for anyone who isn't comfortable with the original C14th English.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like an earlier review, this one relates to the quality of the Kindle edition of this book. While the issue regarding `hyperlinks to the endnotes' (noted by the earlier reviewer) appears to have been resolved, there is a fundamental problem regarding the formatting of the text: as whole lines are either partially obscured at the bottom of the page, or they have only their top half visible (often only the masts of `h''s and `l''s of the bottom line are visible), so that effectively we have a supposedly excellent text ruined by sloppy, incompetent formatting.

The issue of poor transformation of literary texts to Kindle formats is a common one, which is particularly evident with poetic texts:

A common problem is one in which the text of a poem is inset from the left margin by well over a centimetre (or more, dependant on the font setting - given that the Kindle screen is only 6 inches in diameter, any loss of screen space is going to compromise the reading experience), leaving often a large part of one half of the Kindle screen blank. This ensures that a line of poetry is then spread over several lines, disrupting the appreciation of the verse, and making the reading experience extremely unpleasant.

This is particularly evident in the Penguin Kindle edition of `Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene,' an expensive Kindle book, which, while it is sold as a Kindle product is actually (as I was informed by an Amazon operative) formatted for Computer screens and I Pads.

The Penguin Kindle edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is formatted in a similarly clumsy manner, and makes just as unpleasant a reading experience.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 4 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
Middle English is a diverse collection of different dialects and styles, when it comes to literature. At the same time that Chaucer was writing in the southeast of England, with good command of French and Italian poetic sensibilities, there was a strong tradition in the north and west country of alliterative poetry, the kind that owed as much to the Old English forms of verse and use of language as to the new influences post-Norman Conquest-wise. Among the products of this time and place, the anonymously composed 'Sir Gawain and Green Knight' is one of the most outstanding.
This poem has all the hallmarks of being a work of many influences - it has the heroic aspects that one might expect from Old English epics such as Beowulf; it has a decided romantic streak reminiscent of French and Norman influences; it has virtue and church/Christian overlaying influences that come from Latin and ecclesial sources; it has magical and mystical ideas that are most likely Celtic in origin. Perhaps more like a tapestry, the various strands of influence are woven together into a glorious pattern that stands as a towerig achievement of the synthesis of language that Middle English achieved between its Germanic and Latinate streams.
Gawain's story is a very popular one. The most virtuous of the Round Table knights, his bravery and his resourcefulness at seeking the Green Knight, the annual challenger at the court of Arthur, is legendary. Gawain's small fault (and indeed, Gawain was portrayed as a virtuous human, but human nonetheless) warrants a very small penalty, but he is deemed upon reporting back to Camelot that he has brought honour upon the whole fellowship of knights. There is something magical about the Green Knight, however, and this can be seen as metaphor for the way in which temptation seems to have a magical power over humanity.
This is a good study edition, with a good translation and good notes for the student and scholar to follow.
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By John Milton on 15 May 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting legend.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 18 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A great medieval romance 4 July 2001
By sid1gen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This version of "Sir Gawain" must be one of the best around. Keith Harrison translates into modern English a fascinating poem of challenge, witchcraft, temptation, and courage, composed in a mix of alliterative-epic verse with the "bob-and-wheel" that closes each stanza. The introduction explains all these terms, plus others, in case the reader is not familiarized with them. The translator has kept the rhythmic cadence of the bob and wheel, while the alliterative part is correspondingly "epic," dealing with the serious subject at hand. The explanatory notes are helpful, although here, as in the entire Oxford Classics Collection, numbered footnotes would have been better than the not-numbered endnotes we get.
The story of "Sir Gawain" lends itself to several interpretations, since under the apparently simple surface of a challenge to King Arthur's Court and the ensuing adventure of Gawain, there are other plots, different points of view, and a very modern juxtaposition of perspectives that other poems, such as "Havelock" or Marie de France's "Lais" simply do not have. A mysterious Green Knight challenges King Arthur's Knights to a bizarre contest. Gawain answers, and from then on nothing is what appears to be: a decapitated man will live to restore his head to his body, Gawain will go looking for the Green Knight's abode and find a castle where the owner will offer a little challenge of his own, while the owner's wife does her best to seduce Gawain. The descriptions of the hunts are vivid and violent. The descriptions of the bedroom scenes between Gawain and the lady of the house are playful but menacing at the same time. Almost everything is explained when Gawain realizes that he is not such a perfect model of Knighthood as he thought, and when both he and the reader can see that the true contest has taken place far from battle axes, hunts, and bloody hounds killing their prey. What does not get an explanation, though, is Gawain's extreme condemnation of himself while he absolutely ignores the witchcraft used to trick him, his host's false pretenses, the lady's hypocrisy, and the good ol' joke they have played at his expense. "Sir Gawain" could have used a different ending, and not Gawain eternally sad because he finds out that he is human after all, but what we get here is very good. This English medieval romance delivers quite a lot. Read it and enjoy.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Kindle version has problems 2 Jan. 2011
By Wonderkind - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
1. This is not a comment on the original text of Sir Gawain nor on the translation. See above 4 -5 star reviews, which are about the PAPERBACK.
I give 5 stars for the book itself.

2. This review is for the Kindle version. AS WITH MANY CLASSICS titles (i.e. works in the Western Cannon), THE KINDLE VERSION IS A MESS.
--One cannot highlight individual words or make notes on individual words or lines, forcing one to write one note per page.
--The endnotes are not hyperlinked. One of the advantages of ebook over traditional is hyperlinks. This doesn't have those in the text itself.
--Because one cannot highlight individual words, one cannot use the dictionary/Wikipedia options.

3. If this book were free, some problems would be acceptable. But it's not free. It provides LESS VALUE than the printed book and many versions of free or $0.99 books.

4. Amazon needs to stop contributing to the decline of Western civilization and clean up its sloppy handling of our classic works, especially those in translation.
--Until these problems are fixed, keep Kindle reviews and general book reviews separate.
--Be careful about what translation someone is actually purchasing. I'll pay $8 for a good translation but I should get the creaky 19th century translation for free.
--Treat these books with the same care re: technology as others. We want even more to take notes and look up words and flip back and forth between sections in these books. Just because one reads a book written in the Middle Ages doesn't mean one will accept Middle Ages standards of text (when most people had no access to good literature, burned witches, died of the plague, etc.).

In sum, buy the paper version. Poke Amazon into making Kindle versions of The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Metamorphoses, Sir Gawain, Arthur, Beowulf, etc. readable and in the most current translations. Good companies care about SERVICE (and making a buck).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A great book for any reader 8 Nov. 2003
By Gene Weinstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is probably one of the best out there to dive into the world or Arthurian Romances. Harrison's translation is easy to understand, and provides helpful endnotes for much of the historical context. The plot is exciting, and the story progresses smoothly. Although the introduction by Helen Cooper is very informative about the author and subject of the novel, it also provides interpretations of the story itself. I would recommend that those who are unfamiliar with the story to take Cooper's advice and not read it, for it will give away much of the plot, which is rather intricate.
The novel starts out in King Arthur's court, around Christmas time. An unusual visitor arrives, in the form of a giant knight, who as the title implies, is green. He makes a challenge that is met by Sir Gawain, the king's nephew. After a short display, he finds out that he will ultimately have to confront the knight a year later to receive his deathblow. Thus, the story begins, as Gawain sets out on his voyage, to not only find the Green Knight, but also the hero in himself.
Although not too long, the text is very rich. It is full of subliminal messages, which create plots of their own. However, it can still be enjoyed even when taken literally, thanks to the clear writing of Harrison, and to the imagination of the original author.
At less than ten dollars, the book is an excellent value. Although a casual reader would get enjoyment from one reading, further readings would almost certainly bring out new themes and revelations to those more familiar with Arthurian romances, making this a must for any Arthurian enthusiast.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A classic worthy of the name 20 Aug. 2001
By K. Jump - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Many would-be readers are put-off by the word "classic," inferring that anything tagged with that label is necessarily dry, inaccessible, and out-of-touch. Sadly, they're often right. But the immortal tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one book from Oxford World's Classics no fan of Arthurian literature can afford to miss. You want it, it's here: action and romance, mystery and suspense, a heroic quest and a seemingly diabolic villain, and some of the most beautiful word-play ever put to paper, all wonderfully rendered in a fine easy-to-grasp translation by Keith Harrison.
Readers expecting the same Gawain from Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur may be in for a bit of shock. The titular hero of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is far more valiant than later writers chose to present him. Indeed, even the mighty Lancelot pales next to Gawain here. When the inscrutable Green Knight thunders into Camelot to challenge the King, none but Gawain dares step forward to accept the challenge on Arthur's behalf. It's clear that in the eys of this poem's author, Gawain--not Lancelot--was chivalry's greatest champion.
Though a story told in verse, Harrison's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is actually easier reading than any edition of Malory I've seen, while the strong introduction and explanatory notes take care of most of the trouble spots. Acccessibility was clearly a major priority.
Like all the best stories, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is never the same twice. I first encountered this timeless tale years ago in college, but reading Harrison's edition was a whole new experience. The poem is full of symbolism and raises many questions about the nature of chivalry, heroism, courtesy, sin, success, failure, and duty--someof which the poet leaves to the reader to answer for himself.
For those of you who haven't read this poem for a while, Harrison's translation is a great way to get reacquainted with an old friend. And to those who have never read it, fearful of yet another barren "classic," give it a shot. It's definitely worth it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
gawain comes alive 13 May 2003
By kerstin calley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Over the years I've read versions of this poem by numerous people: Brian Stone (the best before this), Tolkien, Raffael, Silverstein, and the archaic and almost unreadable version by Marie Boroff, and more. This is by far and away the best I've come across so far. For one thing, it's astonishingly accurate. Second, it's in a highhly crafted and subtly alliterated modern English. It SOUNDS like someone telling a story not putting on a literary manner and trying to sound important. I despaired of ever being able to introduce my students in reading groups to a convincing translation of this marvelous tale, and here it is. I listened to this version on Public Radio years ago and was captivated. Now I have the book and will delight in sharing the story with my students with a confidence I never had in any of the other translations. Fine introduction too - by the author and by Helen Cooper. Very highly recommended.
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