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Guinevere by Norma Lorre Goodrich

Guinevere (1991)

by Norma Lorre Goodrich

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I hoped this would have some interesting bearing on my essay on Guinevere. Unfortunately, it's such a mess that I can't even bring myself to keep reading it. I'm not sure what the original intent of this book was -- it appears to be part fiction, part attempt at historical biography, but the assumptions made and the claims unproven make it most unconvincing. Part of this is probably due to the fact that it's in a series, but even so, it should have explained properly the grounds for Merlin being a relation of Arthur -- something I've never read elsewhere, in medieval or modern sources -- or Guinevere being Scottish, given that her name is demonstrably Welsh, or claiming that Lancelot is a Scottish character originally called Angus. I didn't get far enough to see what Norma Goodrich made of Lancelot and Guinevere's affair, but it spent enough time talking about Lancelot as defender of Guinevere, the priestess who can't be touched...

I think it would have been much more interesting if I had any idea where all this was coming from. But I've never heard of any of these theories, even though I'm surprised that a professor emeritus would come out with unsupported theories. If I ever hear some more basis for some of these theories, I'll probably revisit this book and judge it anew. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
The dust jacket of Guinevere bills Norma Lorre Goodrich as the world's most important living Arthurian scholar — dust jackets, of course, are completely unbiased sources. Maybe I'm missing something, but this book does not lead me to believe anything of the kind. In fact, in the end I was reduced to skimming, her egoism was so off-putting. She claims that she is qualified to do an unbiased study of Guinevere because she is an American (excuse me?), and later describes thirteenth century poet and translator Layamon as "an ignorant, ugly English monk." All questions of manners aside, how does she know he was ugly? It's clear that she is more interested in hurling insults his way than sticking to the facts.

This lack of good taste wouldn't be as troubling if her scholarship were less dubious. She often contradicts herself, as when she says that the "best source for this story of Guinevere is the voluminous Prose Lancelot manuscript," then writes on the next page, "Nothing in the Prose Lancelot comes very close to Guinevere's real life, marriage, betrothal, and alliance." If that is true, why does she regard it as the best source for these very events? And how does she know what Guinevere's life was really like? This is a problem throughout the book, in which she makes truth claims without explaining her reasoning process or providing citations. She seems bent on treating the Lancelot-Guinevere love story as fact (while denying any sexual relations between them) yet never offers an argument as to why he is left out of all the chronicles and doesn't appear until the French romances. Later she mentions a marriage contract between the queen and Arthur, of which I had never before read, yet fails to provide a reference.

Far from living up to the claims made by this book's dust jacket, Goodrich scarcely comes across as a professional. ( )
2 vote ncgraham | Mar 24, 2009 |
G. is a Pictish Queen with all the sparkle of a Grave's Goddess, so says the redoubtable Goodrich. i enjoy these kind of studies, but i throw my lot in with Joe Campbell and those of his kidney. ( )
  Porius | Dec 21, 2008 |
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