The Inklings and King Arthur

This course explores how J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and other Inklings authors interpreted the Arthurian legends in their work.

START:
DURATION: 12 Weeks
ID: LITD 5307
CREDIT: 3

Disclaimer: The information on this page is provided as an overview. The course outline, readings, and assignments may be subject to change in the final syllabus as determined by the lecturer and/or preceptors.

INSTRUCTORS:

Gabriel Schenk
Lecturer; Preceptor
Maggie Parke
Lecturer; Preceptor
Sørina Higgins
Chair of the Department of Language & Literature

The Sword in the Stone; the Green Knight; the Round Table; Queen Guinever; the Holy Grail; the wizard Merlin; the war against the traitorous Mordred… these are just some of the images from the Arthurian tradition that the group of writers known as The Inklings were fascinated by, and returned to, throughout their fiction. We will be reading the Arthurian legend through the works of Inklings authors, including J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur, C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, and Charles Williams’ poetry, examining their different perspectives and the ways they have used Arthurian plots and images: as vehicles of spiritual meaning; as doorways to an enchanting world of chivalry; to explore ideas about Englishness, love, religion, politics, and history. We will also be studying the work of medieval, Victorian, and additional twentieth-century Arthurian writers, placing the Inklings’ approaches in a historical and literary context, in order to determine why the Inklings returned to Arthur so often, and what impact they had on the shape of Arthurian literature.

Weekly Schedule

This course includes two live 90-minute lectures per week with one 60-minute discussion session as assigned.

Course Schedule

Week 1 – Identities: who were the Inklings? Who is King Arthur?

  • “The Matter of Logres: Arthuriana and the Inklings” by Sørina Higgins
  • Extract from The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter
  • Extract from The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Carol Zaleski and Philip Zaleski
  • Extract from The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

Week 2 – Locating Logres: Welsh and French versions of Arthur

  • “Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain”
  • “Peredur son of Efrawg”
  • “Geraint and Enid”
  • Perceval: The Story of the Grail by Chrétien de Troyes

Week 3 – “The English National Epic”: Malory’s Le Morte Darthur

  • Books 1-3, 8, 14, 21: Le Morte Darthur by Sir Thomas Malory
  • “Mark vs Tristram” by Owen Barfield and C.S. Lewis

Week 4 – Rewriting Arthur: Roger Lancelyn Green

  • King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green

Week 5 – The Quest for the Grail: Charles Williams and Owen Barfield

  • War in Heaven by Charles Williams
  • Night Operation by Owen Barfield
  • “The Holy Grail” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Week 6 – Translating Arthur: J.R.R. Tolkien

  • The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by J.R.R. Tolkien

Week 7 – Arthur as Figurehead: C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength

  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

Week 8 – “A Regular King”: T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone

  • The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White

Week 9 – Charles Williams’s Arthuriad

  • Taliessin Through Logres and the Region of the Summer Stars by Charles Williams

Week 10 – King Arthur in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth

  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Week 11 – King Arthur in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Week 12 – After the Inklings: Their Legacy in Film and Media

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone directed by Chris Columbus
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring directed by Peter Jackson
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader directed by Michael Apted

Required Texts

Notes: Students may use either the ebook edition of The Inklings and King Arthur (linked below) or will have access to a discounted print edition available to students registered for the course. Further information will be sent upon registration. Students are not required to acquire the precise editions listed below, but are requested, when reading works in translation, to seek out the listed translators. Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur must be based on the Caxton edition. Further required and suggested readings will be provided by the course instructors in the final syllabus.

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

The Inklings and King Arthur
SemesterPreceptor(s)
Summer 2019Sørina Higgins

 

Art by Emily Austin. Used by permission of The Apocryphile Press.