Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Weston, Jessie L

(1850-1928) Influential and prolific UK editor, translator and scholar of medieval literature. JLW's works have had a profound effect upon modern Arthurian criticism and literature. In a series of monographs – The Legend of Sir Gawain (1897), The Legend of Sir Lancelot du Lac (1901), The Legend of Sir Perceval (1906-1909 2 vols), The Quest for the Holy Grail (1913) and From Ritual to Romance (1920) – JLW sought to disinter pre-Christian motifs and ideas from the extant medieval texts. Influenced by the work of Sir James Frazer, she identified a number of universal mythological themes running throughout the Arthur corpus, including vegetation rites (birth, rebirth and the connection of king and land), otherworldly mistresses, wives and lovers, and quasi-matrilineal kinship patterns. These she paralleled with Classical and other European Mythologies, attributing their appearance in the Arthurian context to a survival of memories of pagan ideologies and practices. Although now largely abandoned by the modern academic world, JLW's work has had far-reaching effects upon modern writers of Arthurian fiction, notably Marion Zimmer Bradley, Gillian Bradshaw and Bernard Cornwell. JLW's other works included a series of translations of medieval Arthurian romances not represented in the work of Sir Thomas Malory: these remain useful and accessible. [KLM]

Translations (selective): Morien (trans 1901); Sir Gawain at the Grail Castle (trans 1903); Sir Gawain and the Lady of Lys (trans 1907) (> Gawain).

Other work: The Apple Mystery in Arthurian Romance (1925).

see also: Waste Land.

Jessie Laidlaw Weston


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.