Paper given 4 July 2022 at IMC 2022 Session 241
J.R.R. Tolkien was in part responsible for the misconception that writers of Middle English alliterative verse were attempting a revival of some sort, and this is nowhere better expressed than in his work on the Gawain-poet. Tolkien must have held the work in high esteem for the Gawain-poet’s brave effort of being part of what was then termed the ‘alliterative revival of the 14th century’, which clashed with the more popular poetry of the contemporary Geoffrey Chaucer and its characteristic end rhyme. That supposed movement failed, as the evolution of modern poetry attests, but Tolkien most likely found the whole attempt heroic and cherished the desire in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to rescue the device of alliteration from Old English literature that was so natively English. This paper argues that Tolkien’s theoretical interpretation had in part the purpose of supporting the Alliterative Revival of the 20th century that he and his writer friends attempted.