Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Alex Mueller

Second Advisor

Scott Maisano

Third Advisor

John Tobin


The wiles of women are central to the conflicts that arise in the fourteenth century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Through the trials and tribulations faced by Gawain, Knight of the Round Table, we come to understand that he blames women for his flaws. However, what happens when the gender of his opponent is not known but assumed? Gawain is not aware until the end of the text that he will have to consider this very question when it is revealed that the ultimate battle he faces is not with the Green Knight but with the goddess Morgan le Fay. This revelation comes as a surprise not only to Gawain but to the reader as well. Because of this unexpected ending, many scholars have ignored Morgan's role suggesting that she serves as a deus ex machina to the poem. However, the female agency that is interwoven into this text helps us to see how the connections between all of the women in the text represent a power that is greater than the mere superficial tricks suggested by Gawain. It is in this text that women are celebrated not denigrated.

My central argument is that Morgan's character has been viewed as unnecessary because the reader interprets her naming as a signal to the end of the poem. However, I believe that Morgan's naming acts as a preface to a necessary rereading of the text. In this rereading, not only will there be possibilities for Morgan's purpose within the text, but also, her naming will reveal more about the other female characters than what was first assumed. The naming of Morgan le Fay will ultimately reveal that this is a poem that illuminates ideas on masculinity and femininity. Through various forms of disguise, what occur are gender games which create confusion as to how to fully define gender roles. As Morgan's revealing causes Gawain to reexamine how he defines himself, this battle between the masculine and feminine becomes a battle Gawain has within himself.


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