Saturday, 7 November 2015

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight [Fit I]

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Sir Gawayn and þe Grene Knyȝt) is a 14th century Arthurian chivalric romance, written by an unnamed writer who is often referred to as the Pearl Poet, which is split into four parts called FITS. In each fit there are many short stanzas which all end with a rhyming bob and wheel (the "bob" is a short line, usually not longer than two syllables and the "wheel" is made up of longer lines with internal rhyme). The poem follows Sir Gawain, one of the Knights of the Round Table, as he takes up a "beheading challenge" forced on him by the Green Knight, a mythic figure whom is said to be an allusion to Christ or a representation of the Green Knight of Welsh folklore. As said in another post last week I will be splitting up my Sir Gawain and the Green Knight reviews into four parts (Fit I, II, III, IV) and a general concluding post. This post will review FIT I. 

                                                                           FIT I

Fit I is made up of twenty one stanzas with twenty four lines in each which include a five line bob and wheel at the end of each stanza. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight opens with a fictional account of the founding of Britain, describing the Fall of Troy and how heroes from that battle split up and founded the cities of Rome, Tuscany and Briton. The poem then introduces King Arthur, the most legendary King there ever was, and tells how the narrator will relate a story he heard in a hall about a great Arthurian adventure:

Straightaway shall I speak it, in the city as I heard it, 
With tongue; 
As scribes have set is duly
In the lore of the land so long, 
With letters linking truly
In story bold and strong.    

The narrator then moves on to the present, Christmastime in Camelot (New Years Day to be exact). King Arthur, Guinevere, the Knights of the Round Table and other lords have been feasting for fifteen days, and it's now New Years Day. The court participates in the giving and receiving of gifts and then they sit down to feast. The narrator then describes the court of Camelot in beautiful verse:

Friday, 6 November 2015



The Classics Club recently announced a fourteen month Women's Classic Literature Event. The premise is simple: you read as many works written by a female writer as you see fit throughout the next year and two months. You can focus on one woman's body of work or you can mix it up. I've decided to mix it up and separate the titles I want to read into different centuries. For the first three months I'll be reading Ancient texts written by women so there will be more texts as a majority of those are only fragments or short poems. As I move into medieval literature I'll just focus on one book per month, with some notable exceptions. I'm really looking forward to this event and I cannot wait to start. Here is the outline (it's subject to change) of what I want to read over the next fourteen months:

November - Pre 4th Century BC:
  • Enheduanna: The Adoration of Inanna of Ur, The Sumerian Temple Hymns
  • Sappho of Lesbos: Fragment 105(a), Fragment 105(c), One Girl, [I asked myself/What, Sappho, can...], [It's no use/Mother dear...], [To an army wife, in Sardis]
  • Erinna: The Distaff, Epigrams 

December - 4th to 1st Century BC
  • Nossis: The Twelve Epigrams 
  • Phintys: On Chastity (dubious authorship)
  • Cornelia Africana: Letters (dubious authorship)
  • Sulpicia: Poems I, II, III, IV, V, VI

January - 1st Century to 4th Century AD:
  • Julia Balbilla: Epigrams I, II, III, IV
  • Ban Zhao: Lessons for Women
  • Claudia Severa: Letters
  • Cai Wenji: Poem of Sorrow and Anger 
  • Etheria: Peregrinatio 

February - 6th Century to 10th Century AD:
  • Radegund: Letters
  • Empress Jito: Two Poems 
  • Ono no Komachi: Selected Poems 

March - 11th Century AD
  • Murasaki Shikibu: Tale of the Genji 

April - 12th Century AD
  • Marie de France: The Lais, Arthurian Legends 

May - 13th Century AD
  • Hadewijch: Selected Poems, Selected Plays

June - 14th Century AD
  • Catherine of Siena: Letters
  • Christine de Pisan: The Book of the Duke of True Lovers

July -  15th Century AD
  • Gwerful Mechain: Cywydd y Cedor 

August - 16th Century AD
  • Lady Elizabeth Cary: The Tragedie of Mariam the Fairie Queen of the Jewry
  • Vittoria Colonna: Selected Poems 

September - 17th Century AD
  • Aphra Behn: Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister, Selected Plays

October - 18th Century AD
  • Mary Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Selected Letters

November - 19th Century AD
  • George Eliot: Middlemarch

December - 20th Century AD
  • Virginia Woolf: The Waves, A Room of One's Own 

Now that took a long time but I am more than happy about my list. The Classics Club also posted a survey to fill out: 


Introduce yourself. Tell us what you are most looking forward to in this event.
My name is Keely, I'm 23 and I'm Australian. I'm most looking forward to exploring not just classics written by women in my time, and in my part of the world, but throughout time and in different places.

Have you read many classics by women? Why or why not?
Well I thought I had but as I was researching works written by women I realised I haven't read as many as I thought. It was quite surprising as I do actively try and choose novels to read by women.

Pick a classic female writer you can’t wait to read for the event, & list her date of birth, her place of birth, and the title of one of her most famous works.
Murasaki Shikibu is probably the female writer I'm most looking forward to reading as part of this event. She is Japanese, was born between 973 and 978 AD and was a lady in waiting in the Japanese Imperial Court. Her most famous work is The Tale of the Genji which I'll be reading in March of next year if all goes to plan. 

Think of a female character who was represented in classic literature by a male writer. Does she seem to be a whole or complete woman? Why or why not? Tell us about her.
Hmm. I think I'll go with one of the fictional females I discovered this year: Felicité from A Simple Heart by Gustave Flaubert. She's not a strong heroine by any means, she's actually quite simple, however I think it's important to talk about different kinds of women in literature. Not just the Elizabeth Bennets and Jane Eyres. She leads a quiet life as a servant, she lets people take advantage of her, but she is loyal, has a good heart and loves deeply and openly. Gustave Flaubert did an incredible job with her and everyone should read this short story. It's important. 

Favorite classic heroine? (Why? Who wrote her?)
Talk about impossible questions. It's a toss up between Emma Woodhouse from Emma and Anne Eliot from Persuasion, both written by Jane Austen, but I'm going to have to go with Anne. I can't really describe the impression Anne Eliot left on me. She's quite melancholic throughout the novel and I just related to her on several different levels. She's a much better person than I will ever be but her inner strength gave me strength to stand up for myself. I'll never forget the first time I read Persuasion and I'll never forget Anne. 

We’d love to help clubbers find great titles by classic female authors. Can you recommend any sources for building a list? (Just skip this question if you don’t have any at this point.)
I used as my main source for compiling my list of books written by women I want to read and it's a great starting point.

Recommend three books by classic female writers to get people started in this event. (Again, skip over this if you prefer not to answer.)
Any novel written by any Bronte (specifically Anne and Emily Bronte), any of Jane Austen's novels (Emma and Persuasion are my personal favourites), To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. 

Will you be joining us for this event immediately, or will you wait until the new year starts?
Immediately, I already have plans for November. I need to get cracking. 

Do you plan to read as inspiration pulls, or will you make out a preset list?
I've compiled a list already but it's subject to change. 

Are you pulling to any particular genres? (Letters, journals, biographies, short stories, novels, poems, essays, etc?)
The texts I've chosen are mostly essays, poetry, letter, plays and novels. I tried to make it as varied as possible. 

Are you pulling to a particular era or location in literature by women?
Definitely not. There are multiple eras that make up my list and the geographic split is quite varied.

Is there an author or title you’d love to read with a group or a buddy for this event? Sharing may inspire someone to offer.
It would be nice to read Tale of the Genji with someone but it's a big commitment.

Share a quote you love by a classic female author — even if you haven’t read the book yet.
“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”  - Jane Austen, Persuasion 

Finally, ask the question you wish this survey had asked, & then answer it.
Which text are you starting with? Enheduanna's Hymns and Poetry. 

Which female novelists are you reading for this event? Are you as excited as I am? 
Happy reading!