The cycle and the spiral: rhetorical strategies in Malory's "Morte Darthur"

Date
1992-08-30
Authors
Shelton, Donna Lea Skeen
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Abstract

The cyclical and spiral structures which are typical of medieval romance inform Sir Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur. Despite the fact that his prose narrative includes native elements of realism and directness, Malory utilizes the cycle and the spiral as methods of arrangement. These patterns reflect a cohesive world view which dominated the Christian West during the Middle Ages.

Both temporal and spatial designs in most medieval genres reflect the spirit of the quest which often begins and ends spatially at the same point but which leads the quester to a higher level of understanding about his or her role in the world or in the spiritual realm. Even when the narrative ends with the death of the quester, as in Morte Darthur, the promise of a renewal, or a second coming, often closes the narrative by suggesting the restoration of the quest.

The recursive nature of medieval structure is demonstrated in this study through an examination of medieval beliefs about the practice of rhetoric, the medieval concern with church litany and ritual, and the medieval view of women, both real and ideal, in romance. In each case, the cycle and the spiral emerge as predominant images or structuring devices.

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Keywords
Language, literature, and linguistics, England, Malory, Sir Thomas, Morte Darthur, romance
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