Seeing the Gawain-poet: description and the act of perception

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University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991 - Literary Criticism - 155 pages
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Seeing the Gawain-Poet offers the first full-length study of the descriptive art found in four medieval poems - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Purity, and Patience. Generally accepted as being the work of a single author, alternately known as the Pearl- or the Gawain-poet, these fourteenth-century poems are bound together in British Museum Cotton Nero A.x. Readers of the poems rarely fail to admire their descriptive art - the minutely detailed and precisely visualized depictions of costume, landscape, interior furnishings, or storms at sea. It is Sarah Stanbury's achievement to place the poet's use of visual detail in an illuminating, new interpretive context.
Sarah Stanbury examines the Gawain-poet's extraordinary powers of physical description and the ways in which the poems focus on the moment and act of vision. With equal adeptness, she grounds her discussion in medieval aesthetics, contemporary narrative theory, and iconographic study to explore the ways in which the poet consistently uses description as a narrative tool for dramatizing the limitations of human experience and knowledge.
In a speculative conclusion, Stanbury explores some of the anxieties about sight and knowledge as reflected in English mysticism and contemporary intellectual life and as represented in poetry. Through a comparison of the Gawain-poet's visualized descriptive art with that of his contemporaries, particularly Chaucer, her study concludes that the Gawain-poet was unique among English poets of this time in consistently using a focused visual poetics as a mode of description and as a mode of thought.

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Space and Perception in Pearl
Puritys Eyewitness in History
The Dialectics of InsideOutside

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Alliterative Revivals
Christine Chism
No preview available - 2002
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About the author (1991)

Sarah Stanbury is a Lecturer in the Department of English at Tufts University.