Profs and Pints DC presents: “The Green Knight and Medieval Yule,” a look at the Arthurian holiday legend and pre-Christian belief in “green men,” with Larissa (Kat) Tracy, professor of medieval literature at Longwood University and author or editor of several books on medieval culture.
The fourteenth-century Arthurian tale Sir Gawain and the Green Knight captures the festive spirit of the Christmas season in a distinctly dramatic way, with the arrival at the court of King Arthur of a striking green visitor with holly branch in one hand and an ax in the other. Told in verse form, it’s a story full of references to holiday festivities, hunts, and romantic intrigue, and it’s rooted both in Christianity and pre-Christian ideas of green men with plant features.
Bring some added magic to your holiday season by coming to Penn Social for a talk that will immerse you in the strange tale of the Green Knight and the beliefs and symbols it draws upon.
Professor Larissa Tracy, a medievalist who has extensively researched Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, will discuss how the poem set at Yuletide traces the pre-Christian calendar as Gawain waits a year and a day to face his Otherworldly opponent at the mysterious Green Chapel.
To provide broader cultural context, she’ll discuss how the image of the Green Knight has its roots in the Green Man, a pre-Christian figure that co-existed with Christianity—as seen in the dozens of examples carved into the stonework of Rosslyn Chapel, outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. Scholars have wondered at the seemingly contradictory presence of these images in a Christian site, but the Green Man is not at odds with medieval Christianity. It often figures as a facet of it—an embodiment of similar religious sentiments that intertwined over the centuries.
Whether you are a fan of Arthurian legends, have enjoyed the film The Green Knight, or simply have an interest in how pagan nature beliefs live on in our culture, you’ll be glad you planted yourself down in the audience for this talk. Christmas trees and wreaths will wish they could be there. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: A Green Man in the woodwork of England’s Lincoln Cathedral. Photo by Richard Croft / Creative Commons. (Green tint added.)