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Title: The alienated protagonist : Some effects of generic interaction in Middle English literature.
Author: Little, F.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3610 9997
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 1987
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This thesis discusses the effect that the use of more than one genre in a medieval narrative has upon the way we read the character of the main protagonist. Where most medieval writing aligns protagonist and narrative with a single genre, the main texts in this thesis confuse the reader's sense of such an alignment and the resulting generic interaction has the effect of separating the protagonist from the narrative, an effect I have called 'alienation'. This terminology relates to the Augustinian metaphor for the experience of the righteous in a fallen world. It is an image which describes a conflict of semiologies: individuals who operate according to one set of terms in a context which operates according to a different set of terms. The thesis examines the idea that the gaps in the narrative that are created by the alienation of the protagonist - the reader's sense of the protagonist having a meaning which does not work smoothly within his/her narrative context - allow for an interpretation of the character of the protagonist which is more sympathetic to a post- Romantic concept of individuality than is usual in medieval characterisation. Chapter One defines 'genre' and 'alienation' in relation to their application in the thesis, and discusses medieval ideas of individuality and the framework of language available to medieval writers for describing the individual. Two texts are used to illust~ate some of the points made in this discussion: the Confessions of Saint Augustine, and William Langland's ?iers Plowman. The following five chapters each give a reading of one of the main texts. Chapter Two shows how the romance characterisation of Sir Gawain, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, is undermined by penitential and fabliau elements, Chapter Three, how Sir Lancelot in Malory's ~ale of the Sankgreal, is juxtaposed with a hagiographical narrative and an alternative hero, Sir Galahad. In Chapters Four and Five Criseyde, in Chaucer's ~roilus an~_~iseyd~, and his Canon's Yeoman, in the Canon's Yeoman's Tale, are both generically alienated as a mimesis of their---- thematic alienation as traitor and as alchemist. And Chapter Six establishes a working definition of Complaint and shows how Hoccleve, in his Complaint, uses and then transcends the genre's characteristic representation of righteous alienation to demonstrate his recovery from madness. Finally, Chapter Seven looks beyond Middle English to Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and the representation of character in the Renaissance.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Medieval texts/protagonists