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‘luf-talkyng’ in Medieval Literature 9. Thomas Honegger 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

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.
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
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.