The figure of King Arthur continues to emblematize the world of the Middle Ages, even with the paradox that most contemporary portrayals directly reference texts originating in the Modern period. The past forty years, however, have seen a revolution in the study of the earliest medieval sources for the Arthurian myths. Predating Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth-century invention of our most enduring Arthurian narrative, ancient Celtic accounts of a non-aristocratic Arthur, legendary figures such as the visionary Morrigan (precursor of Morgan le Fay), and the bestial Merlinus Rusticus (a Wild Creature bearing scant resemblance to the venerable wizard), among other figures, have been edited and translated. Neglected manuscripts documenting the circulation of the legends in previously unsuspected social contexts have come to light. With an eye toward class members’ preferred theoretical approaches to Premodern texts, the primary goal of the course will be to re-envisage the Arthurian canon, above all by providing a key to the latest advances in the study of genuine, early sources.
Course Texts (to be supplemented by uploaded PDFs in class):
Faletra, Michael A., ed., Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain, Broadview Press, 2007
Robert W. Hanning and Joan Ferrante, trans., Marie de France, Lais, Baker Books 1995
Winny, James, trans., Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Broadview Press, 1992
Shepherd, Stephen H. A., ed., Malory, Le Morte Darthur, New York: Norton 2004
Baines, Keith, trans., Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur, Penguin, 2010