Arthurian Literature XXVIII

Arthurian Literature XXVIII: Blood, Sex, Malory: Essays on the 'Morte Darthur'

DAVID CLARK
KATE McCLUNE
Volume: 28
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.cttn33nc
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  • Book Info
    Arthurian Literature XXVIII
    Book Description:

    Sex, blood, and gender have diverse associations in the Malorian tradition, yet their inter-relatedness and intersections are comparatively understudied. This present collection of essays is intended to go some way toward remedying the need for a sustained examination of blood ties, kinship, gender, and sexuality, and the prominence of these themes in Malory's work. They concentrate in particular upon the analyses of sexuality and sexual activity (and its lack or erasure) and the significance of blood (and blood-shedding) in the 'Morte Darthur', as well as the interconnections with gender (biological sex) and familial ("blood") relations in the 'Morte', its sources and its later reworkings. The result is a wide-ranging investigation into related but distinctive thematic preoccupations, including the national and kinship affiliations of Malorian knights, sibling relationships, deviant sexuality, and blood-spilling in martial and intimate contexts. Contributors: Christina Francis, Megan G. Leitch, Helen Phillips, Carolyne Larrington, Lydia A. Fletcher, Kate McClune, Sally Mapstone, Caitlyn Schwartz, Maria Sachiko Cecire, Anna Caughey, Catherine LaFarge.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-987-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. GENERAL EDITORS’ FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Elizabeth Archibald and David Johnson

    Volume 28 of Arthurian Literature is dedicated to one of the last Arthurian writers of the Middle Ages, Sir Thomas Malory, whose Arthuriad stands at a crucial crossroads in the evolution of the legend. Although he seems to have written much, if not all, of the Morte Darthur while in prison, he drew on a wide range of French and English sources, sometimes copying word for word, sometimes omitting significant passages, some times adding details, dialogue, or whole episodes and tales apparently of his own devising. Many of the essays collected here are concerned with the ways in which he...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. x-xi)
  6. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xii-xii)
  7. I READING MALORY’S BLOODY BEDROOMS
    (pp. 1-20)
    Christina Francis

    Early in Malory’s Morte Darthur, the knight Balyn encounters another young knight named Garnysh who tells Balyn of his rise from poverty to knighthood through the receipt of patronage and the love of his patron’s daughter (87). Balyn asks to meet Garnysh’s love, and they look for her in her castle. Finding her bed empty, Balyn discovers her in the arms of another man in the garden. As he reveals this to the young knight Garnysh, a curious thing happens: ‘And whan Garnyssh beheld hir so lyeng, for pure sorou his mouth and nose brast oute on bledynge. And with...

  8. II (DIS)FIGURING TRANSGRESSIVE DESIRE: BLOOD, SEX, AND STAINED SHEETS IN MALORY’S MORTE DARTHUR
    (pp. 21-38)
    Megan G. Leitch

    We recognize Malory’s greatest secular knights by the feats of arms they perform; Launcelot, Tristram and Gareth all sustain and inflict bloodshed to win many duels and tournaments. Yet Malory shows these three chiv alric paragons bleeding profusely not only on the battlefield, but also in the bedroom. Each knight has a forbidden encounter with a lady when he is wounded–Tristram with the wife of Sir Segwarydes, Launcelot with Guenevere in ‘The Knight of the Cart’, and Gareth with Lyonesse–and all three episodes show male blood circulating to a very different effect than is ordinarily permitted or promoted...

  9. III BEWMAYNES: THE THREAT FROM THE KITCHEN
    (pp. 39-56)
    Helen Phillips

    This paper examines Bewmaynes’ double identity as knight and kitchen boy, and the ways in which the tale of Gareth negotiates relationships and oppositions between these identities. The world of aristocratic dining provided a microcosm of the divide between the knightly class and those below them in status, between those in a hierarchical, feudal society who command and those who serve. Aptly, this tale is framed by two feasts: one which introduces the young man in a form which represents a puzzle about his identity and status, and another which represents the homage of other knights to him after his...

  10. IV SIBLING RELATIONS IN MALORY’S MORTE DARTHUR
    (pp. 57-74)
    Carolyne Larrington

    Until the current decade, the most significant family relationship, both in analysis of medieval western culture and in psychoanalytic studies, was that of child and parent: between father and son in the textual productions of the medieval aristocracy, confirming class status and constituting a major component of identity in medieval literature; between mother and child in Freudian and post-Freudian psychoanalysis as it teased out the ramifications of Freud’s Œdipal complex. Since the turn of the millen nium, however, psychoanalytical attention has turned to sibling relation ships, a field which psychologists were already investigating. With the work of Juliet Miller in...

  11. V ‘TRAYTOURES’ AND ‘TRESON’: THE LANGUAGE OF TREASON IN THE WORKS OF SIR THOMAS MALORY
    (pp. 75-88)
    Lydia Fletcher

    In Morte Darthur, Malory employs two distinct modes of the word ‘treason’. In one mode, the senses and applications of the noun ‘treason’ are extrapolated from the ways in which Malory assimilated legal termi-nology and in which the definition of ‘treason’ is founded in the English statute law 25 Edward III Statute 5 (the Treason Act of 1351).¹ Malory developed the other mode from his French source texts, which in turn based their use of ‘treason’ on the way it was understood in thirteenth-century France. I propose to call these two modes of Malory’s respec-tively ‘legal’ and ‘literary’. The first...

  12. VI ‘THE VENGEAUNCE OF MY BRETHIRNE’: BLOOD TIES IN MALORY’S MORTE DARTHUR
    (pp. 89-106)
    Kate McClune

    Thomas Malory’s King Arthur has some complicated blood relationships.¹ Early in the text, he makes ‘grete doole’ when ‘he understood that syre Ector was not his fader’ (15), and in the chilling moment when Arthur and Mordred, father-uncle and son-nephew, meet one another on the battle-field, the extent to which Arthur can rely upon and trust blood ties is questionable indeed, his blood kinship with the volatile Orkneys ultimately contributes to his downfall. His foundation of the Round Table fellowship is an attempt to establish a loyalty system in which chivalric brotherhood can overcome the potentially unstable clan relationships that...

  13. VII MALORY AND THE SCOTS
    (pp. 107-120)
    Sally Mapstone

    Malory’s ‘Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney’ is one of the most optimistic books in the Morte Darthur, but close to the end of it comes this memor-able statement:

    For evir aftir sir Gareth had aspyed sir Gawaynes conducions, he wyth-drewe hymself fro his brother sir Gawaynes felyshyp, for he was evir vengeable, and where he hated he wolde be avenged with murther: and that hated sir Gareth. (360)

    This narratorial comment is often cited as an instance of how Malory is concerned to connect the material in the Gareth book to later parts of the Morte Darthur.¹ The Gareth...

  14. VIII BLOOD, FAITH AND SARACENS IN ‘THE BOOK OF SIR TRISTRAM’
    (pp. 121-136)
    Caitlyn Schwartz

    Sir Palomydes is a remarkable figure, both for the richness of his interior life and because he, an unbaptized Saracen, operates within the Christian context of the Arthurian fellowship. In earlier English romances, and to some extent in the main French source for Malory’s ‘Book of Sir Tris-tram’, Saracen men are flat figures with specific roles (the bestial giant, the ruthless sultan, the powerful enemy knight); they have in common ‘a reckless, deviant disposition and violent will to power’.¹ In Le Morte Darthur Sir Palomydes departs from these earlier imaginings of Saracens, particularly in his relationship to power and violence,...

  15. IX BARRIERS UNBROKEN: SIR PALOMYDES THE SARACEN IN ‘THE BOOK OF SIR TRISTRAM’
    (pp. 137-154)
    Maria Sachiko Cecire

    Recent critical interest in Sir Palomydes the Saracen has led to various interrogations of his alterity within the context of the Malorian universe.¹ Kevin T. Grimm attributes the modern interest in Palomydes to his ‘apparent psychological intensity’; this is frequently on display in ‘The Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones’ through intense exhibitions of grief and frustration at his failure to achieve superlative status in the knightly community.² Palomydes’s Saracen identity is central to his inability to fit fully into the Christian world of Le Morte Darthur, as many critics perhaps most notably Dorsey Armstrong in her postcolonial approach to...

  16. X VIRGINITY, SEXUALITY, REPRESSION AND RETURN IN THE ‘TALE OF THE SANKGREAL’
    (pp. 155-180)
    Anna Caughey

    One of Malory’s aims throughout the Morte Darthur is what Donald Hoffman calls ‘the diminution of the marvellous’—a progressive shutting-out of sex and magic in favour of the creation of a space for homosocial chivalry.¹ In the ‘Tale of the Sankgreal’, the story of the quest for the Holy Grail is indeed dominated by what may be read as their opposites: virginity and Christian spirituality. However, sex and magic repeatedly find their way back into the text in disguised and not-so-disguised forms. In adapting the thirteenth-century allegorical romance La Queste del Saint Graal, Malory remains largely faithful to the...

  17. XI LAUNCELOT IN COMPROMISING POSITIONS: FABLIAU IN MALORY’S ‘TALE OF SIR LAUNCELOT DU LAKE’
    (pp. 181-198)
    Catherine La Farge

    Space in a fabliau is delimited, known, often domestic. In this regard as in so many others it is the antithesis of the romance space through which Launcelot moves in the tale that bears his name. Here space is apparently inchoate and unbounded, and the movement of the hero seemingly without pattern until he stumbles upon aventure. At that point, like someone engaged in a treasure hunt, he may begin to move through this space very differently, following a given assignment to a highly specific goal: an abbey of white monks, Terquyne’s tree, the Chapel Perelus. But these directives do...

  18. Backmatter
    (pp. 199-203)