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


Volume 6 - January 2007

We are pleased to present the sixth 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.



Kingship in Malory’s Morte Darthur and
the Scots Lancelot of the Laik

Kylie Murray

King Arthur’s rule is a complex issue in Malory’s Morte Darthur and the fifteenth-century Scots romance, Lancelot of the Laik. I explore each text’s expression of the late fifteenth-century political mood of the nation to which it belongs through the medium of Arthur’s rulership, and the influence of advisory ‘mirror for princes’ literature. I initially identify the paradigms each text creates of Arthur’s leadership, and then interrogate his response to advice and his execution of justice. In conclusion I postulate a different inflection of the speculum trope by considering how kingship is mirrored in other characters besides Arthur.


Evil Twins? The Role of the Monsters in Beowulf
Alexander M. Bruce

When we consider the balanced contrast between Beowulf and the monsters he faces, we might be tempted to classify the poem as an “evil twin” story; certainly example after example points to an intentional highlighting of a Beowulf-monster association. Yet the poet went beyond what we may consider a cliché plot motif to a greater issue: how human beings have a monstrous side, and how at times it is truly difficult to tell monster from human and at times so much easier, because the humans are so much more monstrous.


Howard's Idea and the Idea of Hypertext
Susan Yager

Donald Howard’s 1976 book, The Idea of the Canterbury Tales, has been highly influential despite its initial mixed reviews. Howard’s complex ideas about the Canterbury Tales, and the metaphors he used which sometimes bothered his reviewers, can be better understood if we read Howard through the lens of hypertext theory. Howard’s ideas about associative thinking, about the Tales as a performance and a nonlinear memory, and about the book as technology all parallel arguments made about hypertext. Although Howard’s ideas are not entirely congruent with those of hypertext theorists, his book is worth re-reading in that light, especially for teachers of information-savvy students.


The Battle of the Books: An Attack on Nationalism
Francine Roche

Near the end of his reign, Henry VII commissioned Polydore Vergil to write a history of England. By the time Vergil’s Anglica Historia was published, Henry had died, and Vergil found himself embroiled in a debate with John Leland, an antiquarian under the patronage of Henry VIII. At the center of “The Battle of the Books” was Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae. Vergil, searching for Britain’s true history, diminished the importance of Geoffrey’s work and main hero, Arthur. Leland, as a nationalist, countered that Arthur symbolized the Tudor ideals of Old England and Britishness.


Semantic Social Games and the Game of Life in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Arrow-Odd’s Saga
Jefferey H. Taylor

The contrast in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight between Arthur’s court and Bertilak’s contains a critique of human perceptions but also affirms the importance of procreation. This tale and Arrow-Odd’s Saga contain magical garments substituting for immoral sex. Both also use the woodland deity motif, a symbol of fecundity which resonates well with late medieval perspectives. In both tales the experiential nature of life is emphasized over the semantic games of society’s rules. Hence they reflect the shift from scholastic realism to the nominalism and mysticism that underlay the flourishing of the arts in the late medieval period.


"Trewe Man” or “Wicke Traitour” The Steward in Late Middle English Literature
Dinah Hazell

Though few Middle English romances lack a steward, the character receives scant critical attention past his plot function. He is usually nameless, a one-dimensional character, either good or, perhaps more often, bad. But the steward often serves as a social and moral mirror that reflects issues of concern in both the poetic and the poet’s world. Through his actions and interactions the steward illuminates his environment and its inhabitants, frequently with resonance to contemporary conditions.



The Nun's Priest's Tale on CD-ROM
Leicester: Scholarly Digital Editions, 2006


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