There and Back Again: The Enchanted Otherworlds of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Orfeo Prefiguring the Structure of Disenchantment
Date of Award
Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)
Colby College. English Dept.
By drawing from a variety of pagan folk traditions while nevertheless looking toward Christianity in a didactic, idealistic manner, medieval romance conflates paganism and Christianity in enchanted contexts. Philosopher Charles Taylor differentiates between enchanted and disenchanted realities by theorizing contrastive ideas of fullness, or a sense of wholeness and spiritual gratification, between these realities: in enchanted contexts, fullness is inexorably garnered from divinity, and in a disenchanted world, fullness emerges from alternative sources. The enchanted otherworld in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and in Sir Orfeo, where this pagan and Christian convergence blossoms, is open to many readings due to its ambiguous nature. The enchanted world of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight uses the image of the Christian, chivalric Gawain’s multifaceted pentangle to explore Christian fullness, and Sir Orfeo’s Christianity is bound to the Greek myth’s classicism and to the fairy realm’s Celticism, making Orfeo’s journey’s demonstration of Christian fullness multivalent in being invariably informed by paganism. In light of these examples, the otherworld becomes a site for dissolving potential modern, traditional understandings dichotomies between paganism and Christianity and in the process complicates how we understand medieval readers to have garnered a sense of fullness from these narratives. Consequently, the medieval romantic otherworld prefigures the ontological structure of a future disenchanted world of alternative reference-points for fullness.
Medieval romance, secularism, enchantment and disenchantment, paganism and Christianity, chivalry, fullness
Recommended CitationFinn, Andrew D., "There and Back Again: The Enchanted Otherworlds of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Orfeo Prefiguring the Structure of Disenchantment" (2016). Honors Theses. Paper 816.