Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was chosen for Spatial Type 2 as a popular medieval text for which the landscape is semi-symbolic in nature; strongly present but non-place specific. Its popularity lies in its identity as a self-contained Arthurian narrative that starts at the centre of power in Camelot, wanders far away and challenges the hero’s self-identity before returning, as well as in the power of its symbolic, allegorical and moral meaning. As a text, Gawain is notable for the number of times it has been translated, adapted and reworked after its discovery in 1836, most recently by poet Simon Armitage (Faber & Faber, 2009).

The two versions chosen here, offer contrasting ways of understanding the story spatially. Version one is derived from the 1903 re-interpretation by Charlton Miner Lewis (Yale, 1903), which includes the subtitle: 'A Fairy Tale', for good reason. Version two is taken from Keith Harrison’s 1983 translation of the Middle English (Oxford, 2008). Although the core journey and base settings of the narrative are consistent between the versions, Miner Lewis’s interpretation shapes the map in a manner which emphasises the role of the fairy realm.  In contrast, an unnamed path is found at the heart of the map for version one.