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Written by: Anonymous
Edited by: Kevin Gustafson
Translated by: Kevin Gustafson
Series: Broadview Editions

Publication Date: March 31, 2010
192pp • Paperback / PDF
ISBN: 9781551113999 / 1551113996

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This edition provides a new facing-page translation of an important Middle English alliterative poem, generally attributed to the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. A complex meditation on courtly and religious ideals, Cleanness has been praised for its densely figurative language, elaborate descriptive set pieces, and moving depictions of cosmic and human drama. More recently, the poem has also attracted attention for contributing to the history of sexuality in its comparatively frank discussion of sexual practices and sexual pleasure.

Kevin Gustafson's new translation captures the original's poetic qualities while making the often difficult text accessible to modern readers. The facing-page format allows readers to experience the original alliterative Middle English and to compare the texts. Appendices include relevant verses from the Douay-Rheims Bible and excerpts from contemporary romances, chronicles, and theological writings.


"In recent years, Cleanness has come into its own as one of the most significant English poems for the study of late medieval attitudes toward sexuality, sin, and pleasure. Kevin Gustafson's superb new edition and translation is the best text of Cleanness available for classroom use; not only medievalists, but students of spirituality and of the history of sexuality will all find it essential." - Robert Sturges, Arizona State University

"Kevin Gustafson's new edition and translation ends the era of excuses for not teaching Cleanness. He provides a trustworthy Middle English text and crafts a careful, literal translation that captures the narrative energy, rich pathos, and pensive tone of the original without mimicry or self-conscious device. The critical introduction and primary documents allow the reader to study the poem in literary and theological context. We now can give our students a much fuller picture of medieval alliterative poetry and can confront together in the classroom the dynamic and challenging issues of religion, sex, race, and violence that Cleanness so relentlessly explores." -Michael Calabrese, California State University, Los Angeles

Kevin Gustafson is Associate Professor of Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Academics please note that this is a title classified as having a restricted allocation of complimentary copies. While the availability of bound complimentary copies is restricted to desk copies only, electronic complimentary copies are readily available for those professors wishing to consider this title for possible course adoption. Should you choose to adopt the book after viewing an electronic copy we will be happy to provide a bound desk copy.

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Notes on the Text

A Note on Some Words

Appendix A: Biblical Sources

  1. From the Douay-Rheims Version

Appendix B: Other Sources

  1. Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, from The Romance of the Rose (c. 1275)
  2. From The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (c. 1356)

Appendix C: Background Materials

  1. Augustine, from On the City of God (413-26)
  2. Peter Damian, from Book of Gomorrah (c. 1048)
  3. Alain of Lille, from The Plaint of Nature (c. 1170)
  4. William Durandus, from The Rational of the Divine Offices (1286)

Academics teaching relevant courses may request examination copies of titles to consider for text adoption. We ask that you limit your examination copy requests to three or fewer at a time; if you are not confident that you will adopt the book, please help us keep costs down by ordering it instead. If in the future you do decide to assign as a course text a book you have previously ordered personally, Broadview Press will be happy to refund your money.


2010 • 192pp • Paperback • 9781551113999 / 1551113996

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Broadview Press acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund, and also acknowledges the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation. Freehand Books, an imprint of Broadview, acknowledges the support of the Canadian Council of the Arts.