ENGL466 - Arthurian Legend

Prerequisite: Two English courses in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department.

Development of Arthurian legend in English and continental literature from Middle Ages to twentieth century. All readings in modern English.

What does it mean to be a knight? Arthur and his knights have captured the attention of readers and writers for centuries: this course will sample Arthurian material across the breadth of the tradition, and explore the tradition’s paradoxical unity and flexibility. Arthurian material graced the lips and pens of early Welsh bards, found its way into the histories and chronicles of Britain composed in Latin for English audiences; it captured the attention of Continental authors writing in dialects of French, Italian, German, and Norse, and proved to be valuable material for poets fighting to prove that Middle English was a language capable of high literary expression. The tradition is thus not only culturally flexible, but served as a cosmopolitan literary adhesive for the Christian world. This course will trace common tropes and themes, such as the Grail quest, imperial expansion, and integrating outsiders into a central cultural core, as well as examining individual national preferences, such as the French attachment to Lancelot, the English to Gawain, and the Italian to Tristan.