2010 Student Research Conference:
23rd Annual Student Research Conference

Magic and Melody in the In-Betweens: Breaches of Binary Reasoning in Sir Orfeo
Amy E. Reynolds
Dr. Christine Harker, Faculty Mentor

The fantastical 14th century romance Sir Orfeo has inspired a great deal of scholarship in the medievalist community, but in this paper I intend to conduct a unique examination, based on structuralist criticism, which will explore Orfeo's journey as he traverses both fairyland and its literary conventions. The antagonists of this self-proclaimed Breton lay are the fairies, who steal away Orfeo's wife and hold her captive in fairyland. To rescue her, Orfeo must become somewhat fairy-like himself, and as such much breach the divisions of binary reasoning, just as the fairies do. Binary reasoning was a medieval system of absolute dichotomies, such as man:woman, mind:body, and cultured:wild. The conflict in Sir Orfeo is driven by violations of these dichotomies, and this paper will explore how those violations spark and sustain the plot, while an eventual return to "normal" marks the conclusion.

Keywords: Sir Orfeo, medieval romance, fairies, fairyland, binary reasoning, Breton lay

Medieval Studies

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 7-2
Location: VH 1432
Time: 8:15

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