CFP ‘The character of Gawain in Medieval European Literature’

​The organizers of the conference on ‘The character of Gawain in Medieval European Literature’ - to be held in March 2014 - are looking for papers on a topic relevant to the conference’s main themes.

Call for papers “The character of Gawain in Medieval European Literature”

7-8 March 2014 Université Paris Est (Marne-la-Vallée, France)

The conference is co-organized by the Université Paris Est and the Université de Picardie Jules-Verne (France)

The conference will be a good introduction to a second one that will take place in Amiens (12-14 March 2014) on the theme of the Holy Grail. Indeed, Gawain is one of King Arthur’s major knights who sets out questing for the Grail with great enthusiasm but rapidly grows weary of the adventure, brings discredit on himself and fails.

Gawain is a complex character that has changed over time and, consequently, that has no coherent identity. “The earlier legends cover more his feats in battle, as in Kilhwch and Olwen. But in the later romances Gawain has become womanizing and vengeful. In Le Morte Arthur, Gawain threatens to kill Lancelot for his dishonor to the queen, king, and his brother, Agravain. Malory and Tennyson portrayed him in an unflattering light, as a source of irritation to the king and a proud, stubborn, old knight.” ( Ryan Harper points out that “there are more medieval romances devoted to Gawain’s exploits than to those of any of Arthur’s knights including Lancelot, Tristram and Galahad” (The Camelot Project, University of Rochester). André Crépin and Hélène Dauby draw attention to Gawain’s centrality to the Arthurian story and remind their readers that he is the protagonist of a dozen of English (often neglected) medieval romances.

In spite of that, Gawain has not been very much studied: his character is too human (he has even been called “The Arthurian Everyman”), too earthly, and he is usually relegated to a position of secondary importance when Lancelot, Tristram, or Perceval appear and come to the front. Raymond H. Thompson and Keith Busby (Gawain: A Casebook, 2006) define him as “a major part of the Arthurian backdrop, indispensable, useful, and largely predictable.” He is even made fun of in certain texts and the tone used is then ironical (cf. Fridric Wolfzettzl, “Arthurian adventure or quixotic struggle for life? A reading of some Gawain romances in the first half of the 13th century”).

Papers are expected to deal with medieval works in which Gawain is the main character and which are less often studied (for example, concerning literature in English, see Thomas Hahn, Sir Gawain: Eleven Romances and Tales [1995]). Papers on post-medieval retellings and re-workings (novels, films, plays, operas, etc.) are also welcome. Topics might include:

- Drawing Gawain’s portrait: Gawain in chronicles, Gawain in romances, Scenes from childhood, Family sagas.

- Gawain and the others: Gawain and women, Courtly Love / fin’amor, Gawain and the Knights of the Round Table.

- Quests and journeys.

- Realism and the supernatural.

- Body and spririt, the sacred and the profane.

- Rise and fall.

- Gawain, Gauvain, Gawan, Walewein, etc.: national specificities.

- Comparative studies

- Oral and written sources.

- Continuations.

- Reception, passing on traditions.

- Manuscripts, versions and editions of the texts.

- Medievalism.

Please contact:

Prof. Marie-Françoise Alamichel (

Prof. Danielle Buschinger (

Deadline for submitting a paper: 30 September 2013.