Natalie J. Goodison

Oct 4, 2022

Introducing the Medieval Swan

University of Wales Press 2022

What comes to mind when we think of swans? Likely their beauty in domestic settings, their preserved status, their association with royalty, and possibly even the phrase ‘swan song’.

Dr. Natalie Goodison’s Introducing the Medieval Swan (University of Wales Press, 2022) explores the emergence of each of these ideas, starting with an examination of the medieval swan in natural history, exploring classical writings and their medieval interpretations and demonstrating how the idea of a swan’s song developed.

Dr. Goodison then proceeds to consider literary motifs of swan-to-human transformation, particularly the legend of the Knight of the Swan. Although this legend is known today only through Wagner’s opera, it was a best-seller in the Middle Ages, and courts throughout Europe strove to be associated as ancestors of this Swan Knight. Consequently, the swan was projected as an icon of courtly and eventual royal status.

The book’s third chapter looks at the swan as icon of the Lancasters, particularly important during the reign of Richard II and the War of the Roses, and the final chapter examines the swan as an important item of feasting, focusing on cookery and husbandry to argue that over time the right to keep swans became an increasingly restricted right controlled by the English crown. Each of the swan’s medieval associations are explored as they developed over time to the modern day.  

This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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Miranda Melcher

Miranda Melcher (Ph.D., Defense Studies, Kings College, London) studies post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with deep analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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