Minnow's dissertation, and the Merlin conspiracy (was Tough Guide: warning)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Mon Nov 15 16:27:45 EST 2004


Elizabeth wrote:

>Many congratulations, from someone who is very much at the other end of one!
>Might one enquire what the topic of your dissertation is, and is your
>doctorate continuing along the same path, or taking a new tack? (Perhaps I
>will have to brush up on metaphors if I'm going to do this thesis thing
>properly.)

I'm eversoslightly surprised here, because I didn't actually expect anyone
to care about the dissertation enough to mention it; I said something only
'cos i was answering Philip whom owe email (I know, I know, I did *say* I
needed more coffee!) and forgot I wasn't writing just to him until I'd sent
it and it was too late to recall it.

Thank you to people for being so kind about it!

The dissertation was about the perception and codification of honour in
Arthurian literature 1100-1400 (ie not touching Mallory because he's too
much of a muddle as to whether he was cause or effect) as shown by various
treatments of the character of  Sir Gawain in both the chronicle and the
romance traditions (and a couple of Breton /lais/ because I *like* them
dashitall, and English folk-song ditto), and possible origins for the
chivalric ideals of honour during the period with particular reference to
Aristotelian ethics (not Cicero, because he nicked his ideas for *De
Officiis* from Aristotle at least to some extent, so I went for a primary
source rather than secondary) and to the warrior code as displayed in
Beowulf, observing in the light of game theory the dichotomy between social
and ethical honour, failures in which can be shown as leading to shame
and/or guilt.  And all without using a single word that can't be found in
any non-specialist dictionary -- well, ok, maybe not everyone heads first
for the 1933 Shorter Oxford, but if it isn't in there it won't be in my
work.

Well, you asked!  :-)  The *title* is "A Question of Honour"...

So what are you going to be wrestling with?

I don't now go on to look at other knights (though I did have a side-swipe
or two at Erec and Kay already).  The doctoral subject is the significances
of named plants in early English texts.  No, nothing to do with DWJ's
plant-lady with the broken hips!  (Is that an obDWJ?)

>I am just re-reading 'The Merlin Conspiracy' before settling down to serious
>study. There's always something new - I had forgotten that the salamanders
>were invisible to most people. Do you think they are in any way connected
>with the Regalia people? Apart from the invisibility factor, I mean.

The Regalia people are indigenous, and are related to the small, shy people
of the hedgerows -- and distantly to the rather less shy and more wanchancy
Lads who hang out in the cities and have a passion for liquorice allsorts
(if you ever happen to need to bribe them, but I hope you never do).  The
salamanders are not local, hate the climate, and are animal rather than
person.  Well, lizard rather than person.  They're not so bright as the
small people, and they use emotion rather than speech to communicate, and
tend to panic rather than to reason.  I don't think salamanders have a
sense of duty, where I'd say the Regalia people do.  For the salamanders,
think prisoner rather than slave, I'd say.

I don't know how much of that can be found by careful hunting in the book:
probably most of it, perhaps excepting the allsorts, but I throw those in
because you never know when information of that sort might be useful to
someone.

Minnow


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