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Come Hell Or High Water: Aqueous Moments In Medieval Epic, Romance, Allegory, And Fabliau

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Chapter Summary

A reading of Western medieval literary texts, suggests that water as motif, theme, symbol, or element of local color appears occasionally but not often with real force, as a structuring element. Four well-known medieval works, the eleventh-century Old English epic Beowulf, the twelfth century French romance Yvain, the fourteenth-century Middle English allegory Pearl, and Chaucers Millers Tale, a fabliau written in the late 1300s come to mind not only because they contain aqueous imagery, references, and motifs but because water appears to be central to the literary and thematic design of these works vis à vis their respective genres. This chapter sheds light on the role that water plays at, and in, this intersection of genre, place, and culture. The fourteenth century allegory Pearl presents study of human strength and limitations as explored through the motif of water. The Millers Tale employs water imagery as a means of demarcation.

Keywords: Beowulf; fabliau; Millers Tale; Pearl; water imagery; Yvain



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