Characterisation, identity, and narrative style in Malory's Morte D'Arthur

Lawson, Sarah Anne (1971) Characterisation, identity, and narrative style in Malory's Morte D'Arthur. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis deals with four main aspects of the Morte D'Arthur : 'Personal Identity', 'Revelation of Character', The Function. of the Plot in Delineating Character', and 'Shifts of Focus'. 'Personal Identity': The idea of personal identity is based on a character's reputation and what others say about him his name some-times takes on a symbolic quality, becoming a tangible part of his identity, Because identity is so important, the negative aspects of it, disguises and mistaken identities, play a large part in Arthurian adventures. The idea of reality is developed in these episodes: appearance to a large, extent is reality, although in the end a knight is responsible for his actions even when he is masquerading as someone else. 'Revelation of Character' Characters define, themselves partly through their own actions and reasons for their actions. As in the previous section, characters are also partly defined by the impression they make on others. The character is 'revealed' rather than developed, for it is a rather static quality which exists changelessly. 'Rather than 'development' of character in the modern sense, there is a gradual revealing of what is already there. This view of the character emphasises his being and how he behaves using his free will, The action seems to originate within the character himself and our knowledge of him increases by the accumulation of his actions and by his and others' interpretation of his motives. The Function of the Plot in Delineating Character. This section sees the characters as instruments of the plot. The plot is an obstacle course over which the characters proceed from one fixed object to another, The actions of the characters are seen as originating in the plot, that is, the character is forced to tones a decision or to react to external forces. The plot, by bringing sons immediate problem upon a character, may illuminate elements of his personality. One kind of crisis for the character is the 'fork' in which he is forced to choose between two actions. Seen this way, the characters still do not 'develop', for their personalities are only revealed through their actions, and these personalities do not change. The plot may also be a series of thematic progressions in which situations are repeated with minor variations to produce a. complex, almost musical texture, 'Shifts of Focus': These include verbal, visual, temporal, and spatial shifts of focus. The verbal shift is a change from direct to indirect speech, or vice versa. It may be used to emphasise important parts of a speech given in summary and tray give the impression that it was all in direct speech. The sense of dimension and awareness in enhanced by 'over-hearing' snatches of conversations, as when a. snippet of direct speech is inserted in a passage of indirect discourse. Conversations blend naturally with the surrounding narrative description so that the dialogue is not formally set out but rather unobtrusively introduced into the flow of the action. The visual shift is like the cinematographic technique of following a long-range shot with a close-up. The scene may change from the knights in a battle to the spectators and back again. The main action is com7ented upon and partly defined by the reactions of the on-lookers, again there is an element of added awareness when the main scene is put into a larger context. The texporal and spatial shifts are also like modern film techniques: they arcs large jumps to completely different tints and places. They, too, put the present action into a larger context. Future events are attached to present and pest events; events in different places happen simultaneously. Characters have a solidity, for later, after the present time, they still have an existence somewhere. The sense of self-containednessof the Arthurian world stems both from the impression of simultaneity of action and from this idea that things 'happen et future times that are related to (if not always caused by) events in the present or past, There is more an illusion of characterisation in Malory than real characterisation in the modern sense, Because so much emphasis is put on identity and recognition of an individual knight, the impression is given that real differences exist. Individual characters and events are seen to be part of a larger, infinite whole made of tradition and the 'French Book', There is an attractive fragmentary quality in the Morte D'arthur implying that much more has happened which might have been reported, but escaped the boundaries of the book, The narrator is not so much an inventor as a. chronicler.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: British & Irish literature
Date of Award: 1971
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1971-73076
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/73076

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