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‘luf-talkyng’ in Medieval Literature 9. Thomas Honegger [email protected] http:// www. content/top/ index.xml. Wooing Women 2. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. SGGK. Gawain’s ‘continental reputation’ 1) for courtesy and chivalry

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Luf talkyng in medieval literature 9

‘luf-talkyng’ in Medieval Literature 9

Thomas Honegger

[email protected]

Http www db thueringen de content top index xml

Wooing women 2

Wooing Women 2

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


  • Gawain’s ‘continental reputation’

  • 1) for courtesy and chivalry

  • 2) for being a lady’s (or maiden’s) man

  • Lady Bertilak: “3e ar welcum to my cors.”

Pronouns of address
Pronouns of address

  • Normal ‘courtly’ pronoun of address: Ze

  • But from line 1252 onward, the lady repeatedly switches to the more informal ‘πu’.

  • Gawain: abandons rather informal gay and lady louely and returns to madame


  • Robert de Blois (fl. 1233-1266): “Li baisiers autre chose atrait” (Chastoiement des dames, Fox 1950:136, ll. 127),


  • indirectness

  • conversational implicature

  • metaphorical language

  • the exploitation of linguistic subtleties (pronominal and nominal forms of address)

  • playful ambiguity

Ideal wooing by women
Ideal wooing by women

  • Richard de Fournival, Consaus d’Amours, (Speroni 1974:266):

  • en maniere de juer, et lui moustrer sambland d’amours [...], u par biau parler amiabliement, sans faire nule priiere

  • by feigning love to him in obvious jest, [...], or by pleasant, courteous speech, but without making a [frank and open] entreaty.

From sir gawain and the green knight to the grene knight ideal and decline

From Sir Gawain and the Green Knightto The Grene Knight – Ideal and Decline?

The grene knight
The Grene Knight

  • South Midlands, ca. 1500

  • Sir & Lady Bredbeddle (< Bertilak)

Grene knight vs sggk

ca. 500 lines of tail-rhyme stanzas

bedroom trial: one single temptation scene of 42 lines; simplistic exchange with only three turns

explicit offer

2531 lines of alliterative verses

bedroom trial: takes place on three consecutive mornings, interlaced with description of the hunt; 351 lines of complex dialogue


Grene Knight vs. SGGK

Evolutionary approach
Evolutionary approach?

  • ‘primitive beginning’ (e.g. Guy of Warwick)

  • ‘culmination’ (e.g. SGGK)

  • ‘decline’ (e.g. Grene Knight)

Luf talkyng

  • look at Elizabethan court-comedy (Love’s Labour’s Lost, for instance) or the social comedy of the Restoration ‘wits’; and after the demise of the long courtly tradition, in (say) Jane Austen’s Emma (the heroine’s exchanges with Frank Churchill), in Oscar Wilde’s drawing-room comedy, and so on. Stevens (1973:109)

Luf talkyng definition
Luf-talkyng: definition

Sophisticated dialogues between courtly men and women that have a certain length and deal with amatory matters.

French works
French works

  • Chrétien de Troyes’s Cligés (c. 1174)

  • Jean Renart’s Le lai de l’ombre (c. 1220)

  • Jakemes’ Le châtelain de Coucy (c. 1300)

Central themes
Central themes

  • French ‘courtly romances’:emotional relationship between the sexes and their obligation towards society

  • Middle English romances: chivalric (now predominantly martial and only occasionally amatory) exploits of the hero

French luf talkyng transformed yvain vs ywain and gawain

French ‘luf-talkyng’ transformed: Yvain vs. Ywain and Gawain

Yvain vs ywain gawain

Chrétien de Troyes

Yvain/Le chevalier au lion


6800 lines

anonymous poet

Ywain & Gawain

Northern England

ca. 1300-1350

ca. 4000 lines

Yvain vs. Ywain & Gawain

Ywain gawain
Ywain & Gawain

  • ‘His hert sho has πat es his fa’

  • ‘He sayd he sold have hir to wive, / Or els he sold lose his lyve.’

Dialogue in yvain
Dialogue in Yvain

  • The lady determines the topic(s) of the conversation.

  • The lady asks the questions.

  • Yvain does nothing but truthfully answer her questions => the revelation of his feelings are a consequence of his compliance with her wishes.

  • The revelation of his feelings is gradual.


  • off record / indirectness

  • small steps

  • man casts himself in the passive role

Yvain vs ywain

high-spirited, lively dialogue

small, rapid steps

‘literary’ dialogue

longer and fewer turns

Yvain vs. Ywain

Me romances and sggk
ME romances and SGGK

  • ‘roman courtois’ tradition (SGGK) vs. the bulk of the Middle English romances

Summary of dialogues in sggk
Summary of dialogues in SGGK

  • 351 lines

  • 200 lines/1681 words dialogue

  • total of 31 turns

  • ø 6.45 lines per turn

  • ø 54.23 words per turn

Summary of dialogues in grk
Summary of dialogues in GrK

  • 42 lines

  • 21 lines/133 words dialogue

  • total of 3 turns

  • ø 7 lines per turn

  • ø 44.33 words per turn

Summary of dialogues in yvain
Summary of dialogues in Yvain

  • 87 lines

  • 62 lines/379 words dialogue

  • total of 24 turns

  • ø 2.58 lines per turn

  • ø 15.79 words per turn

Summary of dialogues in ywain
Summary of dialogues in Ywain

  • 48 lines

  • 27 lines/167 words dialogue

  • total of 6 turns

  • ø 4.5 lines per turn

  • ø 27.83 words per turn

Summary of dialogues in guy
Summary of dialogues in Guy

  • 296 lines

  • 210 lines/1383 words dialogue

  • total of 14 turns

  • ø 15 lines per turn

  • ø 98.79 words per turn

Function of dialogue 1
Function of dialogue 1

  • The realisation of the temptation scenes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as off-record, multi-turn dialogue sequences does not add directly to the surface motivation of the plot, it effects a foregrounding of the conversation and provides some ‘characterisation’ of the protagonists => cf. Chrétien

Function of dialogue 2
Function of dialogue 2

  • In Middle English romances, on-record opening moves that take place within a small number of turns are used mainly to motivate the ensuing action.