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Legends of King Arthur

CWL 216

Same as ENGL 216 and MDVL 216. See ENGL 216.

From the daring exploits of the knights of the Round Table to the passionate love of Lancelot and Guinevere, few things encompass the magic and adventure of the Middle Ages like the tales of King Arthur. Wielding the power of his sword Excalibur and the wisdom of his advisor Merlin, Arthur presides over a narrative kingdom of knights, quests, dragons, tournaments, maidens, wizards, castles, and fairies, whose interweaving stories make up one of the most capacious bodies of literature in world history. But Arthur is also a messianic figure, appearing in chronicles and histories, leading the people of Britain to freedom from tyranny, and promising to return when his country needs him the most. Arthurian myth and legend is one of the most enduring literary traditions of Western Europe, and its characters and stories were as popular in the Middle Ages as they are today. Originating in early medieval Wales, the legends traveled through England to France and Germany and throughout the modern world. We will study the development of the Arthurian tradition in chronicles, poetry, romances, lais, and fabliaux, comparing variations across cultural and historical boundaries. Our materials will range from the earliest sightings of Arthur in medieval histories through the defining stories of Chr├ętien, Gottfried, and Malory to modern adaptations of the legend on stage and screen.