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REVIEWS MEG STAINSBY. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: An Annotated Bibli­ ography, 1978---89. Garland Medieval Bibliographies, vol.13.New York: Garland, 1992.Pp.xxii, 197.$33. 00. Attempting to update Malcolm Andrew's reference work (1979) devoted to the Cotton Nero poems, at least the Gawain section of it, Stainsby offers a bibliography covering "scholarly studies of SGGK published during the period from 1978 ...through 1989" (p.3).Editions, translations, and theatrical performances of Gawain-those which appeared between 1989 and the first half of 1991-are also included, for "such publications are by their nature infrequent and hence of potentially great importance to scholars currently writing or seeking new pedagogical materials" (p.3). Calling attention both to the explosion of Gawain criticism since 1977, producing "on average over 30 publications per year" (p.3), and to the increasing number of non-English translations of Gawain, Stainsby has designed her bibliography "to maximize the readers' access" (p.4) to Gawain scholarship.Accordingly, she provides a convenient format, divid­ ing her volume into nine significant categories: editions, translations, adap­ tations/performances, reference works, general introductions and romance surveys, authorship/manuscript studies, alliteration and language studies, sources and analogues, and general criticism.Cross references are supplied for every major category-with the exceptions of "reference works" and "general criticism"-at the conclusion of each section. Furthermore, Stainsby offers objective renditions of scholarly arguments in her annota­ tions, essentially "statements of scope, thesis and conclusion" (p.7). Apart from editions, translations, and reference tools, works that demand "description rather than summary" (p.7), Stainsby's annotations generally echo "the voice of the author" (p.7).While this reference guide does not contain bibliographic citations for dissertations, selected reviews of "edi­ tions, translations, reference works and single-author thematic or historical studies" (p.6) are positioned at the end of the annotated material. In the most important section ("Form and Content," pp.7-20) of her introduction, however, Stainsby explores current trends in Gawain re­ search, particularly in authorship/manuscript investigations, language studies, and literary or folk .sources and analogues.Of special value to scholars and students of Gawain are the author's informative summaries of major critical arguments, along with the names of the relevant scholars and their annotation reference numbers.The author's review of scholarship con­ cludes with a discussion of "General Criticism," a multilayered category 279 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER which includes nearly two hundred items. Noting that her audience may be "curious about literary trends and theories and the application of partic­ ular models to SGGIC (p. 11), Stainsby highlights significant critical ap­ proaches, notably those reflecting the imprint of contemporary theory. Such recent scholarly approaches include feminist readings, shaped, in part, by psychological theory; genre studies, including the subjects of literary closure and audience expectations; New Historicist interpretations, largely influenced by cultural currents or by "nonliterary contemporary texts" (p. 13); and mythological arguments, colored by psychoanalytic models. Other perspectives of Gawain, however, focus on the art of translation, especially readings which reflect the translator's decision "whether and when to sacrifice structure for sense, cadence for connotation" (p. 16); nu­ merological explications, including those dependent on structural pat­ terns; pedagogical approaches; psychological interpretations; and semiotic studies. Of particular interest to literary critics is Stainsby's analysis of the "open­ endedness" (p. 17) of recent Gawain studies, notably the torrent of schol­ arly explorations and celebrations of this romance's gamelike ambiguity and indeterminate meaning. As Stainsby notes cogently, "in its self­ consciousness about meaning the poem is often seen as metatextual, the poet self-reflexive; all is about {author's emphasis} meaning, and very often the meaning it is about is the meta-meaning of the ambiguity-that one should not try to fix meaning" (p. 17). Furthermore, Stainsby contends, many of the ideas resonating in this medieval work sound once again in postmodern thinking, especially "linguistic playfulness, resistance to clo­ sure and the attribution of ironic self-consciousness to both art and artists" (p. 18). Stainsby's overview of recent Gawain scholarship concludes with a potential solution to the problem of critical consensus about Gawain's indeterminate meaning. Immediately following her informative introductory...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 279-281
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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