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Simon Armitage: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Helen Price portrait
Helen Price introduces her research.
Gawain first section drafts from BC/MS20c/Armitage/2/9
Simon Armitage: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Geoffrey Hill Mercian Hymns notebook cover
Geoffrey Hill: Mercian Hymns
Literary drafts
Working with literary archives

I spent some time in Special Collections examining draft material relating to Simon Armitage's translation of the 14th century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

The poem contains extensive passages where the narrator describes the physical world which Gawain inhabits. I was interested specifically in the way in which Armitage used language to root Gawain in a physical world which had the same aural qualities of the geographical spaces of West Yorkshire which Armitage calls home.

The archive includes draft notebooks and progresses through to typescript proofs of the near complete work. Examining drafts allowed me to trace Armitage's writing process. By tracking the development and shaping of specific passages I was alerted to seemingly sudden alterations to specific words or lines in the very final stages of composition.  

Learning resource: Simon Armitage, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Image © University of Leeds