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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
By R.E. Kaske
Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Proceedings of the Southeastern Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Summer 1979, edited by G.M. Masters (Chapel Hill, 1984)
Introduction: It is startling to recall that when I first began lecturing on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I could find only one article on it that could be called closely interpretative. A famous remark in a well-known literary history added helpfully that the poem contained “no end of things to exclaim over” – an evaluation that inspired an almost equally famous question on oral examinations: “Exclaim over a few things in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Today, after brilliant books by Larry Benson and John Burrow and a deluge of useful critical articels, we are likely to find ourselves in the opposite predicament of not being able to cover them all. Even so, I think most scholars would agree that interpretation of the poem has not yet reached a point of diminishing returns; and I would like to outline still another possible interpretation, whose main features, incidentally, took form well before the recent avalanche of critical studies.