The Arthur Story

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.

Who was Arthur? Who is Arthur? Was there an Arthur? What do we know and how do we know it?

We will track the legendary yet mysterious king from his beginnings in the late 5th/early 6th century through 1500 years during which his story moved from history to folklore to romance to tragedy. A handout available online will put Arthur in the context of his earliest sources. We will move on to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain; the early Welsh fairy tale “Culhwch and Olwen” from the Mabinogion; two romances of Chrétien de Troyes—Lancelot and Perceval (in English translation); a substantial portion of the Works of Sir Thomas Malory; and Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Because each period created the king it wanted, we will encounter many Arthurs and many—even conflicting—versions of his story.

Requirements include a 10-12 page paper, topic to be decided in conference with the Preceptor, a midterm and a two-hour final exam. Be advised: there is a lot of reading in this course, and it is essential that you keep up.

Note: This course has been retired from Signum University’s course rotation.

Course Schedule

The Arthur Story will meet Tuesday and Friday (primary lecture and closing session) from 8:30 pm – 10:00 pm (UTC-5)

Week 1

  • Handout– Arthur in History and Folklore

Week 2 – The Warrior King

  • Geoffrey, History Part 3 pp. 145-48, & Parts 4-7

Week 3 – The Fairy Tale King

  • Mabinogion, “Culhwch and Olwen”

Week 4 – NO CLASS

Week 5 – The Courtly King: Courtly Love & Social Behavior

  • Chrétien, Lancelot

Week 6

  • Chrétien, Perceval

Midterm Exam

Week 7 –The Tragic King: Malory, Caxton, the Manuscript

  • The Tale of King Arthur, “Merlin” pp. 3-37,
  • “Balin” pp. 37-59,
  • “Torre & Pellinore“
  • “Five Kings”
  • “Accolon, Gawain, Yvain” pp. 59-110.

Week 8

  • “A Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot” & “The Tale of Sir Gareth” pp. 149-226,
  • “Lancelot and Elaine” pp. 477-506.

Week 9

  • “The Tale of the Sankgreal” pp. 515-608

Week 10

  • “The Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere” pp. 611-648,
  • “The Most Piteous Tale of the Morte Arthur” pp. 673-726.

Paper due 8-10 pp.

Week 11 –The Ideal King

  • Tennyson, Idylls of the King pp. 19-167

Week 12

  • Tennyson, Idylls pp. 168-302

Required Texts

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

Summer 2012Liam Daley
The Arthur Story

This course explores King Arthur from his beginnings in the historical record in the late 5th/early 6th century through Tennyson’s idealistic vision of the great King in the late 19th century.

START: May 21, 2012

DURATION: 12 Weeks

ID: LITD 5303