"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," canonicity, and audience participation

  • Angela L. Florschuetz CUNY-Borough of Manhattan Community College
Keywords: Archontic literature, Arthurian literature, Audience reception, Fandom studies, Medieval literature, Romance

Abstract

One of the pervading threads in fandom studies is the metadiscursive tendency within fan works through which audience members engage with media in creative ways that frequently challenge the limited scope of the available canon. However, the challenge presented by active audiences whose desire to interpret and transform texts to accommodate their own desires is not a creation of the internet age, and the struggle over figurative ownership of genres, texts, and characters is a recurrent theme in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This romance explores the tensions arising from audience investment and participation in a canon that they demand suit their social, political, and emotional ends. Throughout the text, the romance pits Gawain against his canonical textual exploits, the romances read in both courts, and even the narrator's (and by extension the audience's) own heroic and epic expectations. Itself a text working within an existing corpus and reliant on audience familiarity with Arthurian canon for much of its humor and logic, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight highlights a familiar struggle over canonicity and legitimacy, suggesting the potential for interpretive frames arising from fandom studies to illuminate texts often excluded from its purview.

Published
2019-09-15
Section
Praxis