Editors: George W. Tuma, Professor of English, and Dinah Hazell, Independent Scholar
Hosted by the English Department, San Francisco State University


Volume 4 - December 2004

We are pleased to present the fourth volume of Medieval Forum. The articles cover a broad range of interests, experience and expression corresponding to a diverse readership, and we hope that they will spark a lively dialog. You may contact the authors directly, and/or you may submit your comments on the articles and the website to the editors for posting.


"The Pale and Perfect Measured Parade": John Steinbeck's First Draft of The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights
Nancy Stork

John Steinbeck abandoned his first draft of his Acts of King Arthur for a variety of reasons, and it was never incorporated into the version published after his death. The manuscript of this first version was recently donated to the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University and is examined here for the first time and compared to both Malory's and the published version. The first draft is a stylistically faithful rendition of Malory's original and is closer to Steinbeck's initial concept of the work as a "translation" that would remain close to Malory in spirit and style.


Music and Magic in Le Bel Inconnu and Lybeaus Desconus
Linda Marie Zaerr

The thirteenth-century Old French Le Bel Inconnu and its fifteenth-century Middle English analog Lybeaus Desconus demonstrate a startling transformation that may reflect thinking about performance. Le Bel Inconnu expresses ambiguity about the moral valence of both music performance and enchantment, while Lybeaus Desconus intensifies the association of music with magic and expresses disapprobation of practitioners of both. Approaching these romances as performance texts and considering their performativity can illuminate self-referential comments on music and magic and explain motivation for revision of the story.


"Of this I can make no sense": Wulf and Eadwacer and the Destabilization of Meaning
James J. Donahue

This article performs two functions. First, to provide a survey of the scholarship on Wulf and Eadwacer. This alone is of limited importance, though necessary for the second function, discussing the limitations of the critical community in providing a stable meaning for this poem. The critical communities investigated have provided meanings for this all but untranslatable poem. However, each "reading" is inevitably constructed not out of the poem itself but by means of scholarly contextualizations, the difficulties of which are investigated in this paper. In the process, this article also comments on the fallibility of scholarly tools in the production of meaning for texts outside of our own cultural framework, and implies the necessity for further research into primary documentation for the clarification of meaning.

Unity, Genre, and Subverting the Absolute Past: The Case of Malory's "Tournament at Surluse"
Sandra M. Hordis

Scholars examining Malory's Morte Darthur attempt to force the text into traditional conceptions of genre and unity which serve the text only minimally. By examining the Morte's "Tournament at Surluse" through Bakhtin's theory of the absolute past, we discover the comic moments of the text subverting categories of genre and unity, leaving such classifications disrupted. Comedy in the Morte resists arguments classifying the text as a unified tragedy or single romances by disrupting the reverent distance on which these genres are based and the fixed structures on which determinations of unity depend.


Christian Heroism and the West Saxon Achievement: The Old English Poetic Evidence
Kent G. Hare

In its existing manuscript context, the Old English poetic corpus reflects a literary program having its origins in the Alfredian period, with aims both religious and political. An ethos of Christian heroism dominating the poems was of crucial importance in the historical context of resistance to the pagan Vikings and the consolidation of a single kingdom of England in the tenth century by Alfred the Great's West Saxon heirs.


Submissions are now being invited and reviewed for Volume 5, scheduled for December 2005 with a submission deadline of 15 September 2005. Please see the submission guidelines if you would like to submit an article, book review or other item of interest to fellow medievalists. If you have any questions, please contact the editors.

Contributors retain the copyright to their works and should be contacted directly with reprint and distribution requests. All citations from works distributed on this website must be fully and accurately attributed.