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Text and Matter: New Critical Perspectives of the 'Pearl'-Poet.

Ed. by Robert J. Blanch, Miriam Y. Miller, and Julian N. Wasserman. (Troy, NY: Whitston, 1991). xix + 254 pp. ISBN 0-87875-402-4. No price given. Intended to 'survey important approaches currently applied to the Pearl poems' and to |suggest the unity of the works in the canon' (p. xviii), this collection of fifteen essays meets the latter objective scarcely at all, and the former somewhat unevenly. Cleanness and Patience prompt the best contributions. In |Cleanness and the terms of terror' David Wallace excitingly associates the poem with a paradox found in the moderni concerning God's commitment to save alongside his absolute freedom not to. Lorraine Stock and C. David Benson contribute sensible ideas about |The "poyne" of Patience' (in relation to acedia) and the poem's |impatient reader' respectively. By contrast, a clutch of essays on |signifying' in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight yields few genuine insights except in the case of Kathleen Ashley's study of the verb halchen in |Bonding and signification in SGGK'. As for Pearl, Jane Chance's elaborate attempt to wrap it up in an exegetical structure will attract more adherents than Britton Harwood's amazing argument that the poem is systematically |chiastic'. Owing to production problems, the volume's last contribution, |SGGK and the fourteenth-century interlude' by Victoria Weiss, is sliced off mid-sentence on a hyphen -- but not before she has glossed Arthur's projection of the Green Knight as an interlude-player with interesting chronicle evidence about an entremet in which |blood-spattered squires' interrupted Edward I's marriage banquet with rehearsed challenges both gamesome and serious. (A corrected supplement is provided.) On the whole, however, this collection seems unmemorable.
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Author:Blamires, Alcuin
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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