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A word on moving literature

Chaucer, knight
So, I'm finishing up Malory's "Le Mort Darthur" for my class this afternoon. Just the last 40 or so pages. And it, as usual, makes me cry. Now this is a book that most scholars say is more like a chronicle than a novel. We get very little internal sense of the characters. It is a third-person pov, with an omniscient narrator that rarely gets inside characters' heads. In short, it is very much what a "fantasy" novel is NOT supposed to be today.

And yet...

Gahareth and Gaharis' deaths make me cry. Gawain's death makes me cry. Arthur's death makes me cry. Guinevere (who I don't even like, for the most part!)--her death makes me cry. Even Lancelot's death.

Somehow Malory makes accessible and meaningful the remarkable tragedy of this story. Sure, it is about lost (and possibly never held) ideals, and about the loss of a dream, but he makes it so human and real.

I'm happy to cry for great literature, and I can't quite stress enough that if you are interested in fantasy (or just in great stuff, period, or in the middle ages, knights, etc) then this book MUST be on a list of stuff to read. Read the beginning, the story of Lancelot, skip Tristan and Isolde if you like, skip the grail stuff, and then read "Lancelot and Guinevere" and "The Death of Arthur." Just amazing stuff.

*sniffles*

Now I've just got to get myself together so I can go teach it and not cry when I teach it ('cause then I'd look like a big ol' dork!)

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
david_de_beer
Jan. 31st, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
you know, I've never read Mallory. But I read Rosemary Sutcliffe's trilogy, which is largely based on/ update of the Mallory saga.

what's so awesome about the story is how the whole arc almost follows the pattern of an ideal itself -- there is a dark time before Arthur and the knights bring hope. Most of the book is about triumphs and victories and yet at the end, everyone dies and it's a really sad book. And yet there's still that little spark, of Arthur returning again one day, that little spark of hope that never dies, only slumbers for a while.
(I suspect I could have said that better. does it make sense? you believe in ideals when things are bad, fight to make them happen, and for a while it does but then life inevitably brings it crashing down)

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Chaucer, knight
pea_faerie
Emily Lavin Leverett

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