Here is a typical pattern of agreements and disagreements you might find among a cluster of sources, arranged in a simplified grid:


Scholar Issue 1 Issue 2 Issue 3
A Yes No No
B Yes Yes No
C No Yes No

Where do you think a writer devising this grid would discover that Issues 1, 2, and 3 were important to Scholars A, B, and C?  A typical problem solving strategy moves from the issues experts agree about to issues they disagree about.  In this case, how might the writer's introduction proceed?


Scholar Issue 1 Issue 2 Issue 3
A Yes (no opinion) No
B Yes (no opinion) No
C (no opinion) Yes (no opinion)

In this different array of opinions, how might the research writer use the scholars' absence and presence of expressed opinions about which issues are important?




Below is a sample grid filled out for a critical controversy about whether Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur (1469-70), the great English compilation of narrative about King Arthur and his knights, was a single unified text or a set of many "short stories" whose characters are not necessarily treated as the same person from story to story.  If the latter argument (Vinaver's) prevails, then "Sir Lancelot" in one tale might be having an affair with Queen Guenivere, and in another tale they might both be chaste and loyal to King Arthur, with no necessary contradiction.  If the former argument prevails, it has to explain why the manuscript records some instances in which Lancelot and Guenivere appear to be lovers and others in which they are not.

Critic Is Malory's Text Unified? If so, how?  If not, why? What do the "loose ends" mean? What do the explicits mean?
R.M. Lumiansky, 1963 Yes, perfectly Theme of Arthur's Kingdom's rise and fall--any plot inconsistencies or "loose ends" occur because Malory could not edit the manuscript before his death Character development (round) and trivial error They are pauses in a continuous process
Eugene Vinaver, 1947 No, 7 separate tales Explicits end separate tales, and plot loose ends mean Malory didn't mean to connect them No character development (flat), no "errors" They end tales.
C.S. Lewis, 1963 Yes, but imperfectly Linked by TM's consistent attitude to his task and material--any plot inconsistencies or "loose ends" result from Malory's inability to edit the complete manuscript. Character development, but imperfect, though still an impressive work. Not sure, but probably TM thought he was done when he wrote them.
Laurence de Looze,1997 [Doesn't study Malory at all!  Studies other authors who name themselves within the text ("signatures") including "explicits" and "incipits."] [Medieval manuscripts abound in inconsistencies even when they are obviously intended to be "whole and complete."] [Scribal copying can corrupt manuscripts, and authors can have inconsistent attitudes at different times in a large work's composition] Medieval authorial "signatures" serve various functions and don't just signal the ends of texts

In this case, the "best reader" for my paper will be those very critics in the left column, whose ideas I am negotiating with.  In some cases, if they are still alive, they actually may be the peer reviewers for any journal article or book manuscript I submit for publication on this topic.  Since de Looze writes far later than the earlier critics, and not about Malory, I am effectively "introducing" de Looze's ideas to the other critics and asking them to consider them with respect to Malory's work.  I would begin with Vinaver, whose work was published first, then introduce Lumiansky's and Lewis's challenge to Vinaver based on specific ways of reading Malory's text.  After summarizing de Looze's research, I would apply it to Malory for a new way to read him.