Christmas at the Court of King Arthur: Sir Gawain  and the Green Knight
with Dr Rebecca Pinner (University of East Anglia)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 3rd December 2016.


A Christmas game at Camelot initiates this compelling quest in which Arthur’s most famous knight, here unusually flawed and vulnerable, traverses a barrow-strewn winter landscape full of ‘wolves, worms and wodewose’ in search of medieval literature’s most enigmatic anti-hero: the Green Knight. We will explore the mythic backdrop and linguistic riches of one of the finest poems in Middle English.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:          Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:          ‘At Camylot upon Krystmasse’: Welcome to the World of Gawain

In the first session we will meet Sir Gawain and his fellow Arthurian knights and consider the Christmas setting of the poem, as well as comparing our text to some other Middle English Arthurian romances. We will also explore the manuscript history of the poem and the remarkable illustrations which accompany the single surviving copy.

11.15 – 11.40:          Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:          ‘An aghlich mayster’: Who, or what,  is the Green Knight?

Our second session turns to the Green Knight who interrupts the Christmas festivities at Camelot. We will consider his arresting depiction and make some provisional suggestions as to who (or what!) he is.

12.40 – 14.00:          Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:          ‘Wormez, wolves, wodwos’ and loathly ladies: the travails of Sir Gawain

As Gawain sets out on his quest he encounters the usual foes of medieval romance: dragons, wolves, wildmen and the like, but is ultimately undone by a less likely foe. In this session we will trace the progress of his quest.

14.50 – 15.10:          Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:          ‘Thou art not Gawain’: the final showdown at the Green Chapel

In this final session we will discover what happens when Gawain finally encounters the Green Knight at the mysterious Green Chapel.

c.16.00:                   Thanks and Close

About Dr Rebecca Pinner

Rebecca Pinner is a Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Literature at the University of East Anglia. Her research is primarily concerned with East Anglian literature, particularly hagiography, and she is also interested in the relationship between literature and material culture. Her first monograph, The Cult of St Edmund in Medieval East Anglia, was published by Boydell and Brewer in 2015 and she is now working on a long-term project investigating water and hagiography in medieval East Anglia (aka soggy saints). She is passionate about medieval literature and all things East Anglian and enjoys sharing this enthusiasm with a wide range of audiences.


When asked ‘What was best about the day?’ at a previous Study Day by Rebecca people said:

  • Very clear and interesting
  • Engaging, wide ranging to start then focussed, use of multimedia, well structured, well paced
  • Well organised & illustrated lectures.  Good timekeeping
  • Handouts – I could concentrate on what the speaker was saying
  • Excellent speaker. Excellent presentations. Excellent handouts. Great subject
  • Excellent presentation

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Anon., Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. J.J. Anderson (Everyman, 1996) – the original, beautiful Middle English text

  1. Armitage, trans., Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Faber & Faber, 2009) – a modern English translation

J.R.R. Tolkien, trans., Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Harper Collins, 1975) – my favourite modern English translation

Derek Brewer, ‘The Colour Green’, in A Companion to the Gawain-Poet, ed. Derek Brewer and Jonathan Gibson (Boydell and Brewer, 1997)

Ralph Elliott, ‘Landscape and Geography’, in A Companion to the Gawain-Poet, ed. Derek Brewer and Jonathan Gibson (Boydell and Brewer, 1997)

Anne Rooney, ‘The Hunts in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, in A Companion to the Gawain-Poet, ed. Derek Brewer and Jonathan Gibson (Boydell and Brewer, 1997)

Stephen H.A. Shepherd, ed., Middle English Romances (Norton, 1995) – a comprehensive selection of other Middle English romances – view the manuscript and its images – read