LIT558: Arthurian Literature - New Saint Andrews College

LIT558: Arthurian Literature

Instructor: Peter Escalante
Term: Spring 2019 (Jan 7-Apr 12, 2019)
Era of Emphasis in Spring Term: Medieval


Course description:

The jewel in the crown of the Matter of Britain is the collection of Arthurian legends. Merlin, the Sword in the Stone, and the Round Table are all still very much a part of the Western imaginarium, outliving their medieval origins and exceeding their original British range. In this course, we will study the Arthurian corpus through primary sources and scholarly commentary, beginning by visiting the late antique and early medieval crucible of peoples and legends in the West, proceeding on through the medieval culmination of the legend cycle, and then extending our considerations all the way into the present, looking at the modern reception of the Arthurian mythos and its abiding interest. In the West, the rex quondam rexque futurus is always returning in the present between the mythic past and the hoped for future, and in this course, we will see why.


Course objectives and themes:

  • Acquire a close familiarity with the history, themes, and literary structures of Arthurian legend and with current scholarly approaches to the corpus
  • Practice careful reading techniques, particularly observant of the distinction between historical narrative and heroic, legendary narrative
  • Engage thoughtfully with the political and ethical functions of myth