ANGLO-SAXON LEXICAL AND LITERARY IMPLICATIONS IN THE WORKS OF THE "GAWAIN"-POET ("PEARL"-POET, "PATIENCE", "CLEANNESS")
HUVAL, BARBARA JANE
Doctor of Philosophy
The works of the Gawain-poet have been examined for traces of French influence, of Celtic influence, and of Latin influence; they have not been systematically examined for that influence which was closer to home for the poet, Anglo-Saxon influence. Yet the poet's word choice and diction indicate a pervasive Anglo-Saxon influence, possibly reflecting the poet's knowledge of the language of the past, or possibly reflecting an extensive vocabulary in the vernacular which was heavily rooted in the Anglo-Saxon but which has not been preserved in manuscript. In Cleanness, the poet uses concepts which indicate his familiarity with an Anglo-Saxon biblical tradition. In Patience, Pearl, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the poet's word choice indicates a closer lexical indebtedness to the Anglo-Saxon parent language than has been heretofore examined. The poet does use words which are a traditional part of the "word-hoard" available to the alliterative poet. He also uses, however, words which are unique to him or words which appear for the first time in Middle English in this manuscript. Several of these words have homophones in Anglo-Saxon which point to possible double meanings not previously recognized. The poet's Anglo-Saxon word choice lends a coloring of the comitatus to his works. Noah, Abraham, and Lot can be viewed as ideal thegns, whereas Jonah can be viewed as a failed thegn. The Pearl-maiden can be viewed as a peace-weaver, mediating between her former earthly lord and her new heavenly Lord. The poet's word choice lends to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight faint epic tones reminiscent of the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf. An Anglo-Saxon dimension is just one more of the many dimensions to be examined in this extremely complex poetry. The poet's Northwest Midland dialect, relatively unadulterated by contact with the court of William the Conqueror, is closer to the Northumbrian ancestor dialect than other regions which had been heavily influenced by the French, so this Anglo-Saxon dimension should not be ignored.