Comparative Literature | Medieval Literature
C523 | 1239 | McGerr
1:00-2:15 MW BH 219
Topic: Arthurian Literature
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 take a hour test and write a research essay (18-20
pages, including bibliography) comparing aspects of 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 class readings.