English 165

Special Topics: Arthurian Medievalisms

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2016 No instructor assigned yet.
MW 9-10:30 305 Wheeler

Book List

Barron, W. R. J., and S. C. Weinberg, eds. and trans.: Layamon's Arthur: The Arthurian Section of Layamon's Brut (lines 9229-14297); Eliot, T. S.: The Waste Land; Lord Tennyson, Alfred: Idylls of the King; Malory, Thomas: Le Morte d'Arthur; Norris J. Lacy, Geoffrey Ashe, and Debra N. Mancoff: The Arthurian Handbook, 2nd edition; Percy, Walker: Lancelot; Steinbeck, John: Tortilla Flat; Twain, Mark: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Other Readings and Media

Online Course Packet including selections from (primary sources) Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chrétien de Troyes, Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer, Spenser, Walter Scott, Swinburne, David Lodge; and (secondary sources) Walter Benjamin, Fredric Jameson, Umberto Eco, Norris Lacy, Patrick Geary, Kathleen Davis, Alan Lupack and Barbara Tepa Lupack, Tison Pugh and Angela Jane Weisl, and Michael Alexander.


This course will focus on medievalism, i.e., the representation and conceptualization of the Middle Ages, in order to analyze how ideas about the past are used in literature and the arts, in both "high" and popular culture. The point of the course is not to separate historical facts about the Middle Ages from literary fictions, but rather to trace the ways in which the imagined medieval past and the wide and often contradictory range of ideas associated with it (middleness, disruption, origin, nostalgia, primitivism, chivalry, absolutism, etc.) have proven both useful and problematic in confronting the present and future. We will ask what each society's medievalism says about the society itself, and trace the ways that ideas about the Middle Ages have been used to promote or critique particular values. The course will center on English literature and one of its most persistent "medieval" subjects, the "Matter of Britain," tales of Arthur and his knights. We will explore several historical moments and places in which Arthurian medievalisms have flourished, using literary work as a lens into the cultures' complex engagement with their pasts. The goals of the course will be to gain a broad familiarity with the themes and history of the Arthurian tradition and at the same time to understand the perdurance of that tradition, both the reasons why the Arthurian world and its medievalism remain so useful a setting and the key changes in the conceptualization of that world over time. Our main objects of study will be works of British and American literature, but we will frequently supplement them with Arthuriana from other media and cultures.


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