EN 501_Connections between Fitts (Parts) 1 & 2 of “Sir Gawain,” Green’s Five Fingers essay, and Rose’s Chapter on Visual Methodologies

In reading the three pieces, there are obvious connections between Green’s essay and “Sir Gawain” as Green’s essay is written about “Sir Gawain.” I can see why Rose’s chapter was paired with this poem as there is a lot of visual imagery in the poem. I cannot, however, find a connection between Green’s essay and Rose’s chapter.

Green’s essay is brief and focused. I thought the essay was very well reasoned and researched. Green cites several cases from the time period in which “Sir Gawain” was written that describe the ritual of the glove and the five pennies (Green 18) and it is reasonable to assume the poet would be aware of this ritual. The fact that each champion would donate their 5 pennies to the church in honor of the 5 wounds of Christ (Green 15) is very compelling evidence as the line following the five fingers reference in “Sir Gawain” refers to the 5 wounds of Christ.  Before even reading Green’s essay, I read Gawain as a champion/stand-in for Arthur. For me, that seems evident. Stanzas 15 through 18 of “Fytt the First,” outline the terms of Gawain serving as Arthur’s champion. Though the circumstance is not a trial, the protocol appears to be the same. When reading Green’s essay, it seems logical to compare Gawain to a trial champion and therefore reasonable to support Green’s theory.

Although I found the “Visual Methodologies” chapter in Research Methods for English Studies interesting, I can understand why visual methods are not discussed much in English studies (Griffin 9). The version of “Sir Gawain” that I read did include visual imagery; if there are versions that accompany visual imagery, a compositional interpretation would be relevant. There is so much textual imagery in this poem, however, that I could visualize the scene and characters. From that perspective, I found a compositional interpretation of the text interesting.

I have not exercised the muscles in my brain required to analyze visual imagery and therefore find it hard to make any theories on connections on the imagery. That being said, the poem is saturated with visual language and textual imagery. Color, in particular, is used to a great extent. In the description of the Green Knight, the poet uses various gradients and hues of green for both the knight and his horse. The poet also pairs green with gold in this description. Both green and gold are colors that have been associated with wealth and prestige, so the poet may have used these colors purposefully, as the knight promises treasure to his opponent, if his opponent wins.

It is also possible to make a semiology interpretation of the use of pentangle in “Fytt the Second.” The poet himself provides some interpretation of the image. But, a more thorough analysis could be done. In addition to the poet’s reference to Christian interpretations of the pentagram/pentangle, there are also occult interpretations that were understood and available during the Renaissance. I’ve only read the first half of the poem; but, the fact that Gawain cuts off the Green Knight’s head and the knight survives and rides away, suggests the second half of the poem may contain more mysticism.


Works Cited

“Sir Gawain and The Green Knight.” Translated by W.A. Neilson. In parentheses Publications Middle English Series Cambridge, Ontario 1999.

Green, Richard Firth. “Gawain’s Five Fingers.” English Language Notes (2001).

Rose, Gillian. “Visual Methodology.” Research Methods for English Studies, Second ed., Edinburgh University Press, 2013, pp. 69-92.

Griffin, Gabriele. “Research Methods for English Studies: An Introduction.” Research Methods for English Studies, Second ed., Edinburgh University Press, 2013, pp. 1-17.





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