Pulp Fictions Of Medieval England Essays In Popular Romance

Gowther’s demonic pedigree shows itself early as he literally sucks dry nine nursemaids, all of whom die.

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The better students, especially coming from a reading of Chaucer’s or Chaucer’s dream visions, can identify some of the poem’s weaknesses in diction and meter, but they nonetheless readily recognize in the poem many features that demand our attention as readers and encourage further research into its cultural context.

In part, the very reason I teach is that students can see a number of themes at work and productively link the poem with a number of other, more canonical medieval texts.

Shortly after discovering the demonic identity of his true father, Gowther begins a life of penitence and humility.

A zealous convert, Gowther hastens to Rome where he confesses to and is given penance by none other than the Pope himself.

Even better, comparing—often empowers the student and helps him or her to analyze canonical Middle English texts with a sharp focus capable of generating significant insights about the very texts they earlier dismissed.

Grappling with this non-canonical text, then, often brings my students back to the canon with a new appreciation for style and structure as well as enthusiasm for the cultural contexts of medieval English literature.This is often the context that makes most sense for students, and there’s enough critics writing on this issue that it can be pursued through new critical, cultural studies, and psychoanalytic approaches.Critics likewise have focused on the role of penitence in the text, and in the survey course I’ve used as a kind of transitional piece as we move away from courtly, chivalric literature to religious genres and concerns.For starters, the issue of Gowther’s demonic birth and pedigree fascinates them, and the poem’s explicit recognition that the demon who impregnated the Duchess is the same who fathered Merlin warrants a comparative reading of texts like the Middle English).Similarly, Gowther’s abnormal growth and outrageous behavior (his vampire-like destruction of the nursemaids, his attacks against clergy) encourage some to more specifically consider him as a giant or a monstrous being, and I send them to Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s work or medieval texts like , which frame monstrous births as a product of interfaith unions (Gilbert).Passages in the poem emphasize the role of confession, humility, and repentance in the life of the individual, and I’ve had students make comparisons to the roles of sin and penitence in (Bradstock, “Penitential Pattern”).Finally, for the student interested in genre-based studies, Gowther poses an interesting case.Excessive both in his early violence and his later devotion, Gowther abdicates his duchy, marries the princess whose life and voice were miraculously restored, rises to the position of Emperor, and, on his death, becomes a saint.A hodgepodge of shocking violence and sobering devotion, this narrative poses some interesting questions for the student of Middle English literature.Just after this display of knightly prowess, Gowther revives the Emperor’s daughter, who seemingly died through a sudden fall.Miraculously, she gains the ability to speak and subsequently delivers Gowther a message from God, stating the erstwhile rapist and murderer is now one of God’s own.

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