Structure and meaning of the quest in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Malory's "Tale of Gareth"

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Peggy Joyce McDaniel (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Robert L. Kelly

Abstract: In his discussion of romance in Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye identifies the quest as the plot of romance. He postulates a mythic pattern of structure with four stages: (1) the agon or conflict, (2) the pathos or death-struggle, (3) the sparagmos or disappearance of the hero, and (4) the anagnorisis or reappearance and recognition of the hero. The first chapter of the thesis begins with a brief explanation of Frye's theory, which is followed by an analysis of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Malory's "Tale of Gareth" according to Frye's terms. Although both romances do contain some of the elements suggested by Frye, in neither case does Frye's mythic pattern of structure account satisfactorily for the structure. As an alternative method of analysis, this study proposes that the events of the narrative are ordered, not by a pre-existing mythic formula, but by the author's preconceived idea of his story, which frequently involves the presentation of certain social, moral, or religious ideals.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1976
Malory, Thomas, $c Sir, $d active 15th century. $t Tale of Gareth
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Quests (Expeditions) in literature
Knights and knighthood in literature

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