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'God knows I speak true': narrative, gender, and the truth in William Morris’s The Defense of Guinevere
Halmstad University, School of Humanities (HUM), Contexts and Cultural Boundaries (KK).
2005 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

William Morris’s The Defense of Guinevere combines two narrators: the implied author and Guinevere. This paper argues that Guinevere, whose voice is explicitly and implicity constructed as female, attempts to appropriate the story of her possible adultery and use it as a vehicle for her own truth, rather than that of her accuser. Guinevere’s appropriation of the narrative to tell her truth is, however, finally depicted as “unspeakable” and as insignificant compared to the combat, the male arena for truth-telling. Guinevere’s voice is the dominant one, but the implied author’s voice is more significant than the scant number of lines indicates: it opens and closes the poem, and emphasises Guinevere’s femininity. It expresses the male gaze, which is also present in the poem as the audience of listening knights. Although the implied author’s voice expresses sympathy for Guinevere it is distant and detached, in its clarity strongly contrasted against Guinevere's immediate, fragmented narrative, and that contrast, again, points to the femininity of Guinevere’s voice. Guinevere’s voice also constructs itself as female by using references to her beauty, to other women, and to her feminine modesty to defend and assert her truthfulness. Her voice is created inside a feminine sphere, never moving, through metaphor or phrase, into the masculine areas of combat, knighthood, and honour. Through her narrative, Guinevere re-appropriates the telling of her story, insisting on her own version of events. Still, in her narrative she emphasises, again and again, her inability to speak and the dangers of speaking. At the end of the poem, Guinevere’s spirited narrative defense is finally undermined by a return to male truth-telling: Lancelot arrives to save her, bringing the masculine assertion of truth by way of combat.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2005.
Keywords [en]
William Morris, Guinevere, King Arthur
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Specific Languages
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-4575OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-4575DiVA, id: diva2:322037
Conference
21st Triennial Congress of the International Arthurian Society, Utrecht, July, 2005
Available from: 2010-06-03 Created: 2010-06-03 Last updated: 2018-03-23Bibliographically approved

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Hildebrand, Kristina

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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf