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REVIEWS MIRIAM YOUNGERMAN MILLER and JANE CHANCE, eds. Approaches to Teaching Sir Gawain andthe Green Knight. Approaches to Teaching Masterpieces ofWorld Literature, vol.9. New York: ModernLanguage Association ofAmerica, 1986. Pp. xii, 256. $27.50. In my first year ofcollege teaching, I overheard a colleague (who was not a medievalist) reduce Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to the level ofan escape narrative. Many non-medievalists, ofcourse, do excellent jobs of presenting this complex poem to first-time readers in survey classes. Now, fortunately for students of all levels, this ninth volume of the MLA's Approaches to Teaching series eliminates any excuse medievalists or others might have for failing to make the poem shine in all its craft and ambiguity. For sophomore surveys to upper-division and graduatecourses, this volume is simply the place to begin rethinking our presentation ofthe "lel letteres loken." "Part One: Materials" is a bibliographic essay evaluating Middle English editions and translations ofthe text, background studies, critical works, reference works, and aids to teaching. Professor Miller is careful to point out practical considerations and scholarly criteria for choosing the appropri­ ate primary text. Excerpts from her discussion would provide an excellent starting point for illustrating the perils ofliterary analysis based on transla­ tion without reference to the original poem. In her treatment ofcritical works, Miller limits herselfto full-length studies and collections ofessays. This brevity is most likely a virtue. In any event, the list ofworks cited at the end of the volume includes a full and representative selection of more recent focused articles. Jane Chance introduces "Part Two: Approaches" with a discussion of SGGK's "complexity and subtlety" and ofthe "complexity and subtlety" of the pedagogy applied to the poem. She addresses the teaching ofGawain with other medieval works and with modern. She identifies the key issues in teaching the poem, points out problem areas, discusses reports and proj­ ects, suggests topics for comparative papers and creative projects, offers examination questions, and summarizes the specific approaches of the contributors whose essays follow. Among these approaches are five background studies: Maureen Fries on "Teaching SGGK in the Context ofArthurian and Other Romance Tradi­ tions," Thomas L. W right on "LufTa/kyng in SGGK," Louis Brewer Hall on "The Breakdown ofChivalry in the 14th Century," Robert]. Blanch on "Religion and Law in SGGK," and Richard Hamilton Green on "Medieval 237 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER Poetics." Related to this group of five isJulian Wasserman's "Weavers and Wordsmiths, Tapestries and Translations." Here we have an epitome of approaches to medievalliterature and a presentation ofseventeen cruxes or ambiguous elements in Gawain. Wasserman thendiscussesfour things the poem might be: a chivalric handbook, a holiday tale, a Celtic story reflecting fertility myth, or Gawain as Everyman on a spiritual journey. Wasserman's essay illuminates the other twenty-two and gains from their more limited treatment of specifics. The next grouping concentrates on the lower-division undergraduate course with essays byJohn Fyler, Rosemary Ascher!, SherronE.Knopp, and Katharina Wilson on SGGK in composition courses, surveys for non­ majors, surveys for majors, and in world literature classes. Four essays then deal with teaching Gawain in translation to upper-division students. Peggy A. Knapp speaks of history and genre, Victoria Weiss of Arthur and Camelot.Jane Chance of Tolkien and his sources, andJohn M. Ganim of the poem and literary criticism.Julia Bolton Holloway, Penelope Doob, Jeffrey F. Huntsman, Anne Howland Schotter, and Edward Irving present approaches to Gawain in the original for dual-level and graduate courses. Medieval culture, Ricardian poetry, Celtic heritage, and the Alliterative Revival are their respective concerns. The final section of approaches in­ cludes Marie Borroffon "Reading the Poem Aloud" and Donald K. Fry and Judith Bronfman with separate essays on visual aids and projects. The final essay plans a medieval banquet. Here Patricia Moody gives us everything fromsouptonuts.This, ofcourse, is what Professors Miller and Chance and the respondents to their survey have given us-a full course, SGGK as a medieval feast of Celtic folklore, Arthurian tradition, and Christian the­ ology. The contributors to this volume each provide a key (or keys) to translate the poet's vision of the world and the human...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 237-238
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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