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The Boundaries of the Human in Medieval English Literature$
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Dorothy Yamamoto

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198186748

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186748.001.0001

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The Wild Man 2: The Uncourtly Other

The Wild Man 2: The Uncourtly Other

(p.169) chapter eight The Wild Man 2: The Uncourtly Other
The Boundaries of the Human in Medieval English Literature


Oxford University Press

This chapter explores two apparent opposites, wild man and knight. Neither term is stable, as each draws upon the other to confirm its own identity. As the two sides skirmish, the boundary between them is re-invented as a site of play. First, the ‘bodies’ of wild men and knight are examined, with reference to Bakhtin's analysis of the grotesque, ‘open’ body in contrast to the opaque, ‘closed’ body of courtly convention. The chief text examined is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The next section discusses those knights who, temporarily, become wild men — Partonope, Sir Orfeo, Chrétien's Yvain, Geoffrey of Monmouth's Merlin, Orson in Valentine and Orson. The last section focuses specifically upon the late romance of Valentine and Orson, and the ways in which themes of wildness and courtliness are figured within it.

Keywords:   wild man, knight, Mikhail Bakhtin, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Partonope of Blois, Sir Orfeo, Yvain, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Vita Merlini, Valentine and Orson

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