A survey of the origins and development of the Arthurian legend from the earliest chronicles in the sixth century and later medieval French, Welsh, Irish, and English Arthurian poems to modern adaptations of Arthurian material, including films.
ENGL 317: Arthurian Literature
Instructor: Emily Houlik-Ritchey
English Department Area of Specialization:
Literature & Literary History
Arthur traverses our literary histories as few other fictional figures do. He has occupied our literary imagination for centuries, transmuting as circumstances require to figure cultural desires for empire and insularity; for romance and betrayal; for untimely death and far-flung future hope. Arthur has given aesthetic and cultural expression to our most profound sorrows and provoked our heartiest laughs. His seemingly infinite cultural capital routinely returns him to screen and page with great variety; yet the staggering financial losses of, say, Guy Ritchie’s recent film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword suggests the surprising rigidity of the unspoken expectations we carry for this iconic figure.
In addition to following Arthur as he morphs through texts across time, we will pay attention to the iconic (and sometimes obscure) figures who populate Arthurian terrain alongside (or sometimes in place of) its famous king: lovely ladies (as well as some loathly ones); knights (both gallant and inept); mages (casting strange prophecies or living backwards in time); beasts (questing, prophetic, or sinister); and some figures who strain the bounds of categorization. From the most iconic (Guinevere, Lancelot) to the most obscure (Calogrenant, Gromer Somer Jour), we will parse these figures through poetry, chronicle, prose, graphic novel, and film.
Satisfies the pre1800 requirement for English Majors