Lecture: ‘Speculative Geometry and the Opening Page of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, by Arthur Bahr, University of Wisconsin, 17:00-18:30 CST

Weapons and wounds feature prominently in the first illustration of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which depicts the Green Knight’s entry, challenge, and beheading in a single tableau. As this talk will show, these weapons are more than thematic; they also help create a complex set of embedded triangles whose angles and sight-lines preview the poem to come. This is significant because the first page of the poem, which appears opposite this illustration on folio 91/95r, is like none other in the manuscript—especially its large, eleven-line gap at the top of the page. Although not representationally illustrative like its facing page, the anomalous text-block of 91/95r nevertheless illustrates the perceptual challenges posed by Sir Gawain’s literary and numerical structures. The 90/94v+91/95r opening thus previews and enacts, in miniature, the challenges and delights of the poem it introduces. Read closely, and speculatively, it offers additional interpretive tools with which to chase the endless, gordian knot of Sir Gawain.

The lecture will be preceded by a graduate student and faculty workshop at 14:00 CST. Please contact Professor Lisa Cooper (lhcooper@wisc.edu) to participate.

Co-sponsored by the University of Wisconsin–Madison Medieval Studies Program, the Anonymous Fund, and the Department of English.

Published by charlottecook

Charlotte Cook graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in European History from Washington & Lee University in 2019. In 2020 she received her Master’s degree in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, earning the classification of Merit. Her research explores questions of royal patronage, both by and in honor of rulers, in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England. She has worked as a researcher and collections assistant at several museums and galleries, and plans to begin her PhD in the autumn of 2022.

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