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EN2C1/EN3C1 Arthurian Literature and its Legacy

King Arthur and Sir Lancelot

2020-21 module convenor: Dr Sarah Wood

Module information

Objectives: The module will explore the evolution of Arthurian myth from the mid twelfth up until the mid fifteenth centuries. Several major works from Middle English literature will be studied in their original language, along with French, German and Latin works in modern translation. In studying these texts particular attention will be paid to the following topics: the nature of different national responses to the myth of British imperialism, the representation of women, the literary construction of knighthood, and the way in which the medieval church attempted to regulate and redirect the chivalric ethos. The last five weeks of the module will examine the characteristics of the Arthurian revival in Victorian and twentieth-century Britain.

Indicative Syllabus: Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain; Chretien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances; Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan; Gawain romances; The Quest of the Holy Grail; Sir Thomas Malory; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King; William Morris; A.C. Swinburne; Mark Twain; T.H. White and Mary Stewart. For further information please see Course outline.


For intermediate year students: 1 x 2500 word essay (40% of module mark) due term 1, week 11 and 1 x 4000 word essay (60% of module mark) due term 3, week 3. Essay titles will be provided by the convenor.

For finalist students: 1 x 3500 word essay (40% of module mark) due term 1, week 11 and 1 x 5000 word essay (60% of module mark) due term 3, week 3.

**Please note that due to the restrictions on in-person exams during the Covid-19 pandemic, the 50% exam option previously offered for this module has been discontinued**

Pre-requisites: All students taking the module should have taken EN121 Medieval to Renaissance Literature.

Texts to buy

Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain, trans. L. Thorpe (Penguin, 1996)

Chretien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances, trans. W. W. Kibler (Penguin, 1991)

Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan, trans. A. T. Hatto (Penguin, 1967)

Robert de Boron, Merlin and the Grail (tr.) Nigel Bryant (D.S. Brewer, 2005)

The Quest of the Holy Grail, trans. P. Matarasso (Penguin, 1975)

Thomas Malory, Morte d'Arthur: The Winchester Manuscript, ed. and abridged H. Cooper (Oxford World Classics pbk)

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King (Penguin, 1983)

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (Penguin)

T. H. White, The Once and Future King (Voyager)

Mary Stewart, The Crystal Cave (Coronet)

The two longer texts for term 1, which you might try to read over the summer, are Gottfried von Strassbourg’s Tristan, and the anon. Quest of the Holy Grail. See above for publication details.