Seeing the Gawain-poet: description and the act of perception
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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according acts Apocalypse argues beatific vision Belshazzar Bonaventure Cambridge castle Chaucer Christ Christian cleanness commentary complex contemplative Cotton Nero poems describes detail discussion divine dramatizes dreamer Emmaus English mystics episode epistemological erber Ernest Gallo exemplum experience eyes eyewitness fictional focused fourteenth century frame Gawain-poet gaze God's Green Knight Guenever Hautdesert homily human illustrated imagery images interpretive Jerusalem John Jonah landscape late medieval look manuscript Matthew of Vendome metaphor Middle English narrative narrator narrator's nature ocular ornament Oxford parables Paradise passage Patience Pearl perception Philology pilgrim poem's poet poet's poetry point of view Princeton Purity Purity's reader relationship repeatedly rhetoric Scripture sense sensory shifts ship sight Sir Gawain Sir Orfeo space spatial spiritual structure suggests sy3t symbolic thematic tion tradition trans Troilus and Criseyde University Press viewer visionary visual perception visual poetics visual signs vpon wat3 whale woodbine wyth
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