WiSe 16/17: PS-Medieval English Literatures:Adapting Arthur: From History To Fantasy
This survey course deploys the concept of the literary meme by tracing the development of central aspects of the Arthurian narrative from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s tenth-century chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae to the Arthurian novels of twentieth-century children’s author T.H. White, taking in the canonical Arthurian romances of the high Middle Ages and less well-known Arthurian works of the sixteenth-century.
Students will be introduced to the processes of adaptation by which the story of Arthur was first transformed from prose chronicle accounts with claims to historical truth, to verse renderings of a courtly king and his idealized fellowship. We will further consider how the story continued to be reworked in early modern England and beyond, providing the inspiration for a wide variety of different texts. In this context, we will pay particular attention to the ways in which key elements of the Arthurian story can be seen to adapt to shiftingg cultural contexts. Finally, we will investigate how the world of Arthur lends itself to different generic frameworks and multiplicitous readings.
The course aims to familiarize students with a wide range of Arthurian material and to use the Arthurian story as an example of how a given narrative can evolve in the course of 900 years. It will have a strong focus on developing and presenting independent theses in a series of short, unmarked essays throughout the semester and will require students to lead and actively shape class discussion.
The primary texts under discussion will include passages from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth-century chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae in Modern English translation, as well as passages from the stanzaic Morte Arthur, the alliterative Morte Arthure and tales from Thomas Malory’s fifteenth-century Morte Darthur. Postmedieval texts will include Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon and T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. Core secondary texts will include: Dani Cavallaro, The Chivalric Romance and the Essence of Fiction (Macfarland, 2016); Helen Cooper, The English Romance in Time (OUP, 2004) and Geraldine Heng, Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (Columbia University Press, 2003).close
16 Class schedule