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Sir Gawain And The Green Knight/Pearl/Cleanness/Patience (Everyman's Library (Paper)) Paperback – 3 Jun 1996

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (3 Jun. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0460875108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0460875103
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.1 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT is one of the most important alliterative poems of Medieval literature

About the Author

Dr J. J. Anderson is Honorary Research Fellow, formerly Senior Lecturer in English language, in the University of Manchester. His interests and publications are chiefly in the fields of medieval literature and early English drama.


Customer Reviews

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This edition is what I wanted but it took a lot of searching. Most editions now are translated for the modern reader, which misses the beauty of the original. This appears to be an authoritative edition which superseded the one (Tolkein) which I studied in college. It is well supported with notes and glosses and I like them on the page rather than having to turn to the end. The design is well done, so if you want to read just the poem and not be distracted by the transcriptions, you can just put a piece of paper over them, or just ignore them. You have the sense of the original plus support if you need it. This is a much better method than the Worlds Classics editions which drive one distracted with numbers in the text referring to notes at the back of the edition.

I was really pleased to see that the first poem is "Pearl" as it is this I bought it for, having, in my retirement a hankering to read it again. I just took off one star because the paper quality is a bit rough. However I am very pleased with it. Thank you Amazon.
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I don't have the technical expertise of previous reviewers to comment on the quality of the critical apparatus of this edition; however I would point out that its double page layout worked well for me as a fourteen year old reader - the glosses given enabled me to read most of the poem without reference to the footnotes, but when I struggled, the fact that they were in verse meant that I didn't find the interruption to the flow of the poem so jarring. Substituting modern poetry (however imperfect) for the original is still less of a contrast than dry, factual, prose.

However, athough "Gawain and the Green Knight" takes up over half the book, it is not the only poem considered. The other two are very different. Whereas 'Gawain' has a Christianised setting into which pagan, mythological elements repeatedly intrude, "Pearl" is an extended Christian allegory meditating on love and mourning. The soul of the dead child is "the pearl of great price" from the New Testament parable, for which the grieving father would give all that he had. The last of the three is an explicit meditation on the Christian virtue. ("Cleanliness" should be thought of as 'purity' in this context.)

The complex imagery and lack of narrative structure make these other two poems much harder work to read. The "glossary & free composition" approach of this edition serves these poems less well; one does feel the need of a more detailed textual analysis.

For me, the particular merit of this edition lies in the juxtaposition of the three poems. I would probably never have bought the other two poems if they had been published seperately; yet together the three poems together complement each other. They demonstrate the range of styles and diversity of subject matter and genre available to Middle English audiences.
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The story of this poem is pretty weird: Arthur's knights are eating their Christmas dinner when a hefty green man (why is he green? I've no idea!) walks in and challenges one of the knights to a duel. The poem follows Gawain, the knight who takes up the challenge, as he travels, in classic Arthurian fashion, through a wood, where he gets lost. A castle appears, Gawain goes in, and the kind host suggests offers him a bed for the knight: the bed in which his (the host's) daughter sleeps. We later learn that this host is the green man, disguised, and his offer is designed to test Gawain. Though Gawain is tempted, he keeps to his side of the bed, and travels on to meet the green man for a beheading game, unaware that he has already passed the test.
The poem is a combination of two mediaeval stories: the beheading challenge, and the temptation story (an good example of the latter, with a misogynistic twist at the end, can be found in 'Three Arthurian Romances', also in Everyman paperback). The poet (we don't know his name) has combined them in a sophisticated way: so that Gawain triumphs not through his bravery, but his morality. (This is itself a twist, because Gawain was usually depicted as a womaniser!)
There are a number of translations of this poem into modern English, but, needless to say, a lot is lost in translation. (The poet for example, has invented or mastered a form that mixes alliterative verse -- using repeated consonants -- with rhyming verse.) The Everyman edition gives the poem in the original, but has helpful glosses of all the strange words that crop up in this strange poem. (It also includes two other poems which might have been written by the same poet.)
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Having studied a lot of medieval writing at university I was pleased to find something as fresh as Gawain and the Green Knight. There are so many levels to read this book on. You can look into all the allusions and the imagery, or you can read for pure enjoyment of the action in the story. The narrative is clear and even though it is written in an old style of English it does not take long to get into that way of thinking - it is not difficult to understand. I would recommend this to all lovers of good fiction, and tales of knights of old!
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By A Customer on 11 Nov. 2004
This edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has possibly the worst critical apparatus that I have ever seen in any supposedly scholarly text - it is quite simple: do not buy this edition if you want more than a condescending, sloppy, infuriating quasi-translation of one of the greatest poems that this language has ever produced. Where to start? Well, to begin with, J.J.Anderson has seen fit to omit any form of glossary - a fairly important addition you might think to a poem that is full of archaic and obscure language; the marginal glosses are simply too few and far between to be anything more than a minor annoyance. Infact, make that a major annoyance seeing as Anderson seems content to ignore some of the more challenging words in favour of glossing those words which are more or less obvious from their context and pronunciation. But, not to worry - Anderson has come up with a brilliant solution to the 'complexities' of the poem. Simple. Just translate it by stealth in a series of footnotes written in size 6 font to emphasise how unassuming and humble our exalted editor actually is. But really - come on - who actually wants to read the poem in its original form and understand the subtleties and nuances of what it has to say when we have 'scholars' such as J.J.Anderson to improve on the text and bring it up to standard for this discerning age? If your want to experience and enjoy this poem in its original form - and, believe me, it will be worth the effort - invest in a better edition; preferably one edited by someone who actually respects the text - and his readers.
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