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Volume 35, Number 1 (2010)

Boxed In: Alice Munro’s “Wenlock Edge” and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

September 29, 2010
September 1, 2010


First published in the New Yorker in December 2005 and later revised for the collection Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro’s short story “Wenlock Edge” is an elaborate intertextual engagement with the Middle English Arthurian romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In Munro’s story, the narrator is a female university student writing an essay on the medieval romance at the same time as she becomes entangled in her own complex relationship games. Both “Wenlock Edge” and Sir Gawain are constructed as a series of interlocking boxes, a narrative technique known as emboîtement. This structural similarity highlights the interconnectedness of events in the two works and is a crucial force in the narrator’s transformation from self-delusion to self-knowledge. As in Sir Gawain, however, the extent of this new-found self-knowledge is ambiguous because the emboîtement reveals both treachery and complicity.