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La hierarchie et l’adaptation : comparaison entre Yvain et Ywain and Gawain McKie, Shannon A.

Abstract

When comparing Ywain and Gawain with its source, Chretien de Troyes' Yvain. many critics concentrate on the dramatic omissions and reductions made by the anonymous English adapter. However, the more subtle differences between the two Arthurian romances also deserve attention. Since the goal of medieval adapters of secular texts was to rethink and reinvent their sources, these changes could reveal further aspects of the originality of Ywain and Gawain. which is generally considered a sophisticated work in its own right. With this study, I hope to demonstrate that some of the differences in the Middle English adaptation may signify an effort on the part of the adapter to present his own vision of society and hierarchy. While it is not possible to situate all the characters on a social scale, the probable hierarchical relation between many of them can be established based on their lineage, tide or social position. The present analysis examines modifications in the interaction between some of these characters—due to the limits of this study, I treat only the cases where at least one female character is concerned—and the role of hierarchical submission. I explore examples from two perspectives: that of the characters of lower rank, whose subordination to social superiors is a basic element of social order, and that of the characters of higher rank, whose standing implies both their own authority and the submission of their inferiors. I found that the English poet diminished or omitted many examples that do not respect hierarchy in Yvain. creating the impression of a more hierarchical society in the adaptation. That overall impression is not changed by the fact that the adapter also introduced or amplified other exceptions to the hierarchy, for they are not of an extreme nature and occur only in a limited context. In fact, these additions seem to follow a logical pattern as well, presenting the image of a society in which rank and power are linked. Consequently, they too may be interpreted as part of a coherently modified version of society and hierarchy created by the author of Ywain and Gawain.

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