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EN2C1/EN3C1 Arthurian Literature and its Legacy

King Arthur and Sir Lancelot

2021-22 module convenor: Dr Sarah Wood

Objectives: This module will explore the evolution of Arthurian myth from the mid twelfth to the fifteenth century. 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 final weeks of the module will examine the characteristics of the Arthurian revival in Victorian and twentieth-century Britain and America.

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 on term 1 texts (40% of module mark) and 1 x 4000 word essay on term 2 texts (60% of module mark). Essay titles will be provided by the convenor.

For finalist students: 1 x 3500 word essay on term 1 texts (40% of module mark) and 1 x 5000 word essay on term 2 texts (60% of module mark). Students will devise their own titles in consultation with the convenor.

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

Texts to buy for 2021-22 academic year

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

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

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

Robert de Boron, Merlin and the Grail (tr.) Nigel Bryant (D.S. Brewer, 2005) (alternatively, use ebook linked from module reading list)

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

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

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

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

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

Arthurian Poets: John Masefield, ed. by David Llewellyn Dodds (Boydell, 1994)

Recommended summer and Christmas vacation reading

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.

I recommend that you try to read Malory and/or Twain over the Christmas break.