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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

4. Imagery and Symbolism

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about significant images and symbols in the poem, focusing in particular on the pentangle, the Lady of Hautdesert's girdle, and the mark on Gawain's neck.


In this course, Dr Marion Turner (University of Oxford) explores the 14th-century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The course begins with an introduction to the Arthurian tradition, focusing in particular on the representations of Arthur and his court in the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chrétian de Troyes. After that, in a section titled 'History and Place', we think about the links between the poem and the courts of Edward III and Richard II (especially the foundation of the Order of Garter in 1348), the poem's focus on the North West of England, and the relationship between the various locales presented in the poem itself. In the third module, we turn to the form and structure of the poem, thinking about the use of alliteration and rhyme and the arrangement into 101 stanzas and 4 'fits' (sections), before moving on in the fourth module to explore the significant images and symbols in the poem. In the final module, we think about how the reader is supposed to judge Gawain for his actions, focusing in particular on the three judgements that the poem itself provides: (i) that of Gawain himself; (ii) that of Bertilak, the Green Knight; and (iii) that of Arthur's court.


Marion Turner is Associate Professor of English at Jesus College, University of Oxford. She is the author of a ground-breaking biography of Chaucer: Chaucer: A European Life (Princeton, 2019). This biography focuses on Chaucer as an international figure, exploring his travels, his multicultural influences, his multilingual identity, and the global aspects of medieval London.

Her other books include Chaucerian Conflict (Oxford, 2007) and, as editor, A Handbook of Middle English Studies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), and she has published many articles on Chaucer and other aspects of late medieval literature. Marion has received research funding from the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Wellcome Trust. She often speaks in the media, including Radio 4, BBC1, Channel 4, and ITV. She has a particular interest in outreach, taking part in Chaucer Days at the Ashmolean Museum and the Weston Library, aimed at sixth form students of Chaucer, and often speaking at schools and colleges.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Turner, M. (2018, August 15). Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Imagery and Symbolism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Turner, M. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – Imagery and Symbolism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,