Date of Award
In the fourteenth century, the so-called Pearl Poet created such masterpieces as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl. Though his surviving body of work comprises only four poems, these are enough to have him considered among the greatest medieval English writers. Much scholarship has focused on the poems’ sources, style, symbolism, and thematic content, but comparatively little has approached these works as narratives. The Pearl Poet was a masterful storyteller who employed a consistent yet flexible set of narrative techniques. Borrowing the theories developed by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction, I present an analysis of the narrative techniques used by the Pearl Poet based on a hybrid of individual and comparative readings of his four works. All the poems together display common features of fully realized drama and flexibility of perspective. While certain techniques can be found throughout his writing, the Pearl Poet reveals himself to be skilled in adapting different techniques in the service of different genres: from the sermon-like directness of Patience and Cleanness, to the intensely personal dream-vision Pearl, to the ambiguous romance Sir Gawain. I will particularly focus on the poet’s employment of the narrator’s voice, as it ranges from authoritative to friendly to sympathetically flawed, and argue that the diversity of these voices are each appropriate to the subject and matter of the poems as he tells them.
Agger, Karl, "Narrative Technique in the Works of the Pearl Poet" (2018). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 441.