Comparative Literature | Topic: Arthurian Literature
C417 | 1232 | McGerr
1:00-2:15 MW BH 219
Satisfies AHLA requirements
Stories about King Arthur and his court represent one of the richest
traditions in Western literature, one that crosses boundaries of
historical period, language, literary genre, and artistic medium.
Though we may read Arthurian narratives without understanding the
mythological, literary, and political forces that shaped them, our
appreciation of these works deepens when we recognize the threads they
borrow from the past and weave into new texts.
This course will trace the development of Arthurian literature from
its Celtic roots through its development in medieval European
literature and its reappearance in later literature and film.
Readings for the course will be in modern English and will include
Welsh tales such as "Branwyn, Daughter of Lyr" and "How Culhwch Won
Olwen," selections from Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of
Britain, Chrétien de Troyes' Knight of the Cart, Wolfram von
Eschenbach's Parzival, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Sir Thomas
Malory's Morte D'Arthur. In addition, we will discuss the ways in
which three modern films adapt Arthurian tradition to their own uses:
Excalibur, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Fisher King.
Students will write one critical essay (6-8 pages) comparing the
treatment of similar events or characters in two of our class
readings. An alternative option will be to compare the treatment of a
character or event in an Arthurian text not on our reading list (such
as Chrétien's Yvain, Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan, the
Alliterative Morte Arthure, Spenser's Fairie Queene, Tennyson's Idylls
of the King, Wagner's Parsifal and Tristan and Isolde, T. H. White's
Once and Future King, and Bradley's Mists of Avalon) with the
treatment of a similar character or event in one of the class
readings. Students will also take one hour test and a final exam.