Arthur, King of the Britons?

Fall 2003 and Spring 2004, Sharon Goetz

Arthur, King of the Britons? Some Medieval and Modern Views

Reinvented repeatedly to fulfill dreams of empire and schemes for doomed romance, King Arthur has inspired the imagination for over a thousand years. In this course, we will examine snapshots of “the once and future king” from his first (and very brief) appearance in a sixth-century text to the somewhat romanticized renditions of recent writers. Instead of trying to build a linear trajectory to the present, however, we will investigate some ways in which our texts negotiate this ambiguous hero: what kinds of emphases do texts from specific times and places give to kingship? How has Arthur come to be “king of the Britons” (as Monty Python has it), and what does that mean for different writers? How do portrayals of women and men shift over time in these narratives? Why does Arthur seem so useful as a traditional hero, such that contemporary readers can have access to many different (and equally valid) versions of a single character?

Gildas. The Ruin of Britain and Other Works. Ed. and trans. Michael Winterbottom. London: Phillimore, 1978. 25-29.

Nennius. British History, and the Welsh Annals. Ed. and trans. John Morris. London: Phillimore, 1980. 18-20, 26, 28-31, 35-36, 44-45.

Geoffrey of Monmouth. The Historia regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Vol. I: Bern, Burgerbibliothek MS. 568. Ed. Neil Wright. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1984. 101.

Geoffrey of Monmouth. History of the Kings of Britain. Trans. Lewis Thorpe. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966. [greatest hits plus vii-end]

Chrétien de Troyes. Le Chevalier de la charrette, ou le roman de Lancelot. Ed. Charles Méla. Paris: Livre de Poche, 1992. 40-41.

Chrétien de Troyes. Arthurian Romances. Trans. D. D. R. Owen. London: J. M. Dent, 1987. 185-280.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Ed. J. R. R. Tolkien and E. V. Gordon, rev. Norman Davis. 1967. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989. 1.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Patience, Pearl. Trans. Marie Borroff. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001. [SGGK only]

Malory, Thomas. Le Morte Darthur: The Winchester Manuscript. Ed. Helen Cooper. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998. vii-ix, xxxii-xxxiii, 3-24, 54-57, 82-94, 321-34, 373-87, 395-414, 468-85, 505-41, 550-51, 554-65.

Tennyson, Alfred. The Poems of Tennyson in Three Volumes. Ed. Christopher Ricks. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. Harlow: Longman, 1987. 263-80, 491-508, 529-47, 561-63. [“Dedication,” “The Coming of Arthur,” “Pelleas and Ettarre,” “Guinevere,” “To the Queen”]

Morris, William. The Defence of Guenevere, and Other Poems. Ed. Margaret A. Lourie. New York: Garland, 1981. 45-53, 181-87.

White, T. H. The Once and Future King. 1958. New York: Ace, 1987.

White, T. H. The Book of Merlyn: The Unpublished Conclusion to The Once and Future King. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1977. 129-37.

Ford, John M. “Winter Solstice, Camelot Station.” The Year’s Best Fantasy: Second Annual Collection. Ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. New York: St. Martin’s, 1989. 489-93.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.