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How Gender and Thematic are related to Comparative Literature?

1: Thematic means a body of topic for study or discussion.

2: Gender means the role assigned to a body.

Rene Wellek said that Comparative literature was identical with the study of literature independent of linguistic, ethnic and political background. Raymond Trousson has suggested in fruitful area of comparative studies is the literary representation of named personages.

3: Personages means the name or person becomes age.

Elaine Showalter, “The new feminist criticism”, 1986.

  • The book concentrates on exposing misogyny of literary practice.

First phase: the stereo typed images of women in literature as Angels or monsters. The literary abuse or textual harassment of women in classic and popular male literature and exclusion of women from literary history. Second phase: This phase focused on texts produced by women, with a view to revising traditionally male determined literary history. Looking at texts across a wide time span that deal with the same subject.

Debatable: Like Greek mythology which chart another version of the transition from matriarchy to patriarchy, the destruction of the mother is a prominent motif. Clytemnestra and Margawse are depicted as dishonourable and dishonouring and hence are killed by their own son. Arthur is described as the great British hero. Arthur embodies all virtues of military powers combined with good judgment mobility and honesty. Except for one fatal flaw: his wife, Guinevere.

1: Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘History of kings of Britain’.

  • It consists an account of Arthur’s betrayal by Guinevere.
  • Guinevere is described as having broken her machinery vows to live in adultery with Mordred.
  • Mordred is defeated and she flees for her life to a convent.
  •  The date according to Geoffrey was 542AD.

Shift: Authurian material has gone under a shift with the shift from epic to romance, and the establishment of conventions of courtly love, with its chaste idealization of the lady.

There occurred a shift in the treatment of the motif of Guinevere’s infidelity.

2: Chretien de Troyes

Romance: “Le Chevalier de La Charrette” 1179.

  • He depicts Lancelot in classic courtly mode as the true and faithful servant of his lady.
  •  He risks pain and humiliation to save her when she is abducted by the evil meleagaunt.
  •  The writer has presented a sympathetic portrait of Arthur, who is never depicted as a cuckolded husband but always as the epitome nobility and generosity.
  •  The love between Lancelot and Guinevere is idealized and Nobel.
  •  Chretien’s Guinevere as a lover caught in the dilemma of loving two equally Noble men.
  •  Guinevere come to assume greater significance in the account of the collapse of the Round Table.
  •  The theme of Guinevere’s adultery
  • Guinevere as the symbol of disintegration of the ideal male order of Round Table.
  •  The motif of doomed love of Lancelot and Guinevere.
  •  Guinevere as also the symbol of disunity.
  •  Guinevere is held responsible for the fall of man.

Shift: The context in which Mallory wrote.

  1. Wars of the Rose
  2.   His violent natur

3: Sir Thomas Mallory ‘Morte D’Arthur’ 1485.

  • Mallory’s Guinevere is an active character.
  • Guinevere has placed herself under the protection of Lancelot.
  • His Guinevere is not condemned as an adulteress, but presented as an example of true love.
  •  Mallory’s account of the plot against Launcelot and Guinevere, of his being found in her chamber and Arthur being forced against his will to condemn her to death has provided the basis of most of the 20th century fiction versions. Arthur is reluctant to act but is forced to do so by some of his Knights.
  •  Mallory’s Arthur is shown as a fundamentally good man, who never loses his nobility. Shift: Popular romantic fiction.

4: T.H white His popular romantic fiction.

“The once and future King” 1939.

  • The character of Arthur as a good man caught in the tragic reality of his wife’s lover for his best friend.
  •  Arthur as sympathetic character.
  •  Arthur comes to an end of his life as ruler of a wasteland
  •  The order of perfect knighthood destroyed.
  •  The love for his life and his best friend responsible for final battle.
  •  The blame for the final catastrophe is not placed on Guinevere.
  • White stresses the great sorrow at the heart of Arthur’s marriage the fact that Guinevere is childless.
  •  The story of three lovers caught in a love triangle of conflicting emotions and loyalties becomes a symbol of the disunion.

Shift: The Arthurian material declined to such a degree that it disappeared for centuries. Victorian age retold the story.

To expose some of the contradictions at the heart of Victorian society.

5: Tennyson “Idylls of the King”

  • Tennyson’s portrayal of Guinevere. She loves Launcelot and is punished for that love. Her love is described as err, sin, and shame. This is not a Noble love, it is a secret, guilty love.
  •  Arthur is represented as a Noble, forgiving man who can still admit that he loves her polluted flesh.
  •  Tennyson’s obvious a fascination with Guinevere’s physical beauty as a figure of passion and of spring time.
  •  Depiction of Arthur as cold in comparison with the loving Launcelot.
  •  Guinevere is passionate in contrast with Arthur’s spiritual coldness

Shift: Pre-Raphaelite poetry.

 6: William Morris

“The Defense of Guinevere”. 1858

  • Morris is fascinated by Queen’s sensibility.
  •  It is also typical in dealing with the theme of the femme fetale, the woman whose beauty lures men to destruction and which was such a powerful image throughout the 19th century, as scholars such as Mario Prez.
  •  He depicted idealized images of women in his writings and art. He also created a range of femes fatals___ Guinevere, Lilith, Helen of Troy and figures from Greek mythology such as circle.
  •  Woman are presented as powerful but dangerous and that the danger derives from their sexuality.
  •  Guinevere is shown as strong willd and determined has great power of sexual attraction… emotional 19th century.

 Married woman’s property reform bill 1855.

Gillian Bradshaw’s romantic novel:

  • His treatment of the story requires women to find happiness and fulfillment within a relationship with a man.
  • Her Guinevere, through the narrator of the book, is a passive, helpless character unaware of her powers. unaware by the end
  • Bradshaw’s Guinevere is an example of an archetypal romantic heroine, on whom fate acts, for she is not in control at any stage of her life or destiny.


The crux of the debate between Comparitive study as literary history or as practically comparing of texts regardless of context can be seen in differing attitudes to the tracing of thematic material across cultural and temporal boundaries. This brief sketch of interpretations of the figure of Guinevere reveals a great deal about changes in literary conventions and also about changes in ideology, with regard to the sanctity of marriage and the expected role of the ideal wife. Reader response theory, like knew historicised work on our recognizing the dialectical relationship between a text as product of a particular age and that text as received in another context.

The story of Guinevere cultural history exposing overt details of what readers choose to read underlying assumptions encoded in each text about the status of women and their role within marriage.

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