The anonymous poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight survives in only one manuscript, British Library MS Cotton Nero A.x. Normally this would indicate a text with little general appeal (contrast with the multiple manuscripts and variations of Piers Plowman or Canterbury Tales), but Sir Gawain has been popular with academic readers since the manuscript’s rediscovery by Henry Madden in 1 839 and reached a new and wider public audience with Simon Armitage’s poetic translation in 2006. Prior to that, it had undergone numerous translations and editions, including being adapted for children (most recently by Michael Morpurgo in 2004) and transformed into an opera by Harrison Birtwistle in 1991. The phenomenon of its popularity has been noted by Glen Olsen in his preface to the online Cotton Nero A.x project; on his count, ninety-five editions and translations of the poem have appeared since Madden brought the manuscript to light and this number does not include editions available in several formats, such as the Norton edition, which offers the translation by Marie Borroff, or compilations such as The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: the Medieval Period, which uses James Winney’s verse rendition which is also available as an independent, parallel-text edition of the poem. In short, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has become one of the best-loved medieval texts, popular with both scholars and general readers.
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