Violence and Vengeance in Middle Welsh and Middle English Narrative. Owein and Ywain and Gawain

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This study examines the presence and extent of legal and feud elements in the Middle Welsh Owein and the Middle English Ywain and Gawain. The anonymous English author of Ywain and Gawain expresses sentiments of a feud culture, especially the sanctity of the spoken vow. The process of feud and the concern for honor, along with the sentiment of reciprocity and exchange which inform them, are so integral to the cultures which produced Owein and Ywain and Gawain that familiarity with this mentalité is essential to fully appreciate and understand the literature.


“Interest in the prose tales of medieval Wales has tended to focus on the Pedair Cainc — ‘the Four Branches’ — to the neglect of the three great Arthurian romances, although Peredur, the Perceval romance, has received some substantial attention. Similarly, although study of the Middle English romance corpus has burgeoned in the past two decades, Ywain and Gawain has received far less attention than it deserves. Cichon’s study not only brings two neglected texts firmly into focus, but also provides a valuable new approach by which each can be read each in its own cultural context.” – Prof. David N. Klausner, University of Toronto

“This book makes an important contribution to our knowledge of medieval Welsh literature’s little known legal contexts. Cichon’ s ability to ferret out the obscurities of feud practices and illustrate their occurrences (hitherto missed in much of the scholarly literature) in several major medieval Welsh literary works and related English and continental works is most illuminative. Moreover his study carefully situates his primary legal interests within the context of a broader social history that makes the work of interest to a broad constituency of medievalists and students. The work’s scope which includes not only the Welsh sources but related English and continental sources makes it a good example to students of a more inclusive, less Anglo centric, cross- cultural approach to British medieval history and culture.” – Prof. Alan Reese, St. Thomas More College

“Michael Cichon’s excellent and much needed examination of feud and law contributes both to the history of conflict in the British Isles and to Welsh studies and will be an important work for scholars and students working in these area to know.” – Prof. Sharon Wright, St. Thomas More College

“It is also refreshing to read the work of a scholar who feels equally at home discussing both Welsh and English literature. While it is much more common for Welsh scholars to be familiar with English literature, far too few English scholars are familiar with Wales’ literature, history (or sometimes even its location) . . .” – Prof. Elizabeth Schoales, formerly of the University of Wales

Table of Contents

Foreword by David N. Klausner
1. Introduction
Literature Survey: Welsh Law
Welsh Arthuriana
Ywain and Gawain Studies
2. Cyfraith Hywel Dda and Mediaeval Welsh Narrative
The Four Branches of the Mabinogi
3. Owein
The Background to Chwedyl Iarlles y Ffynnawn
Style and Genre of Chwedyl Iarlles y Ffynnawn
Relationship to Ywain
Peredur and Gereint
Direct borrowings from Cyfraith Hywel in Chwedl Iarlles y Ffynnawn
Custom and other Legal References
Behaviour and Social Interaction
Sovereignty elements in Celtic Literature and Owein
Insult and Redress in Owein
4. Ywain and Gawain
Feud and Law in Mediaeval English History and Literature
Ywain and Gawain
Genre and Style
Trowth, the sens of Ywain and Gawain
Legal References and Overtones
Reciprocity and Social Interaction
Insult and Redress
5. Concluding Remarks

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