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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is not only the best, but also in many ways the most unusual or unprecedented of medieval English romances.

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Though its language and dialect have challenged readers from the beginning—some of its archaisms must have seemed almost as unusual to medieval audiences as they do in the 21st century—its appeal remains fresh and powerful. You know, where they find the perfect partner for you. And besides, I don’t want a computer to make decisions for me. I think they just take your money and match you up with the first person who comes along. In the years immediately following, book-length studies by American scholars deployed traditional modes of medievalist scholarship (see Borroff 1962, cited under Language and Authorship, and Benson 1965, cited under Sources, Analogues, Influences) but incorporated literary readings that revealed a provocative complexity and subtlety that all readers might enjoy. Book-length studies in the latter part of the 20th century (Davenport 1978, Johnson 1984, Stanbury 1991) enriched our sense of the poem’s remarkable achievements, while embedding its words, ideas, and outlook in a broad variety of medieval social, spiritual, and psychic contexts.Howard 1964, a landmark interpretation of the romance, combines New Critical close reading with a learned appreciation of medieval culture and aesthetics, establishing beyond question the poem’s place as a touchstone of English literature. Hahn 2000, a survey of other English Gawain romances, helps establish a literary register against which Sir Gawain and the Green Knight defines itself through verbal dexterity and textual density.

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