By Colleen

This semester I have one new prep–British Literature Survey 1. This is in addition to teaching two of my usual classes: Shakespeare and two sections of Writing Intensive First-Year Seminar (aka English 101: Freshmen/College Composition). Early British Literature is my speciality and while preparing to teach some of this literature the first time, I have found that sometimes playfully dressing what I teach helps me feel confident and prepared for new lectures and class activities.

As an Irish American colleen with the pale skin, green eyes, and red hair, I already don a lot of green clothing, so the outfits (especially the green plaid shirtdress) and separates (the green cardigan and the jewelry) are staples in my wardrobe. Wearing verdant outfits while teaching a text entitled Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, however, forces me to feel even more confident about my materials; otherwise, I could just look silly.

(Outfit Notes: Grey sheath dress, green plaid shirtdress, green printed dress, and green tights all from Target. Black pinstripe jacket from Express. Green cardigan from New York and Company.)

Complementary Perfumes (SOTD):

  • Jardin Mystique by FriedemodinThe lily of the valley is a beautiful scent, but cloying and dangerous; the jasmine is heady; the cut grass and crushed leaves hint at summer and autumn, so the perfume is a polychronic multi seasonal floral garden.
  • Verde by NestThis is a crisp fougère of wild ferns, verbena leaves, vetiver, and cedar.
  • DKNY Be Deliciousan energetic and lively Granny Smith apple with cucumber, lily-of-the-valley, and woodsy notes

Arthurian romance  has exquisite details of the clothing, weapons, and accessories of heroes, villains, ladies, and horses. When the mysterious titular knight arrives at Camelot asking the Knights of the Round Table to engage in a beheading contest,  the knight’s immense stature, buff body, and handsome looks are all described, and then, in passing, it is mentioned that he is all green.

From there his costuming is described in great alliterative detail:

He was got up in green from head to heel:

A tunic worn tight, tucked to his ribs;

And  a rich cloak cast over it, covered inside

With a fine fur lining, fitted and sewn

With ermine trim that stood out in contrast

From his hair where his hood lay folded flat;

And handsome hose of the same green hue

Which clung to his calves, with clustered spurs

Of bright gold; beneath them striped embroidered silk

Above his bare shanks, for he rode shoeless.

The color green is contrasted with Sir Gawain’s shield of a golden pentangle on a scarlet background with an image of the Virgin Mary on the inside. Whereas the symbolism of Gawain’s shield is elaborated upon, the greenness of the Knight’s clothing, his lack of knightly vestments, and his contrary accessories of a huge battle axe and a sprig of holly all remain elusive.

Later, when Sir Gawain searches for the Green Knight, he receives a green girdle from his host’s wife. A sign of his near infidelity, his poor manners, his cowardice, his frailty, or as the Green Knight later explains to Gawain, his love of life and attempt to preserve it–the green clothing develops even more ambiguous, slippery meanings when it is the woman’s attire. The men all attempt to offer their own readings of this feminine accessory, but they cannot settle on a meaning, other than all the men of Arthur’s court will wear a green sash in fraternity.

I’m not sure if the students even notice my color schemes–or if they do, I remain unaware of their attention–but it is fun for me to play with the shifting meanings of the color green.