College of Humanities and Social Sciences

ENGH 421: Topics in Medieval and Renaissance Literature

ENGH 421-001: Arthurian Retellings
(Spring 2012)

07:20 PM to 10:00 PM M

Innovation Hall 135

Section Information for Spring 2012

An 1862 painting, The Death of Arthur, by J.M. Carrick, combines an early-medieval ship, vaguely Norman chainmail, and helmets from unspecified modern period in the eclectic visual grammar of nineteenth-century medievalism. The legend of King Arthur--also eclectic--coalesced around scattered records and story fragments, but hard evidence is sparse and problematical, so our concern will be less with the question "was there a King Arthur?" than with the affirmation "there are many Arthurs now."

After studying the earliest literary exemplars of the legend--Celtic, Latin, and French--we will examine several reconfigurations of the legends of Arthur and the cultural work such retellings perform. The warrior recedes to give place to his knights in the romances of Chretien de Troyes. Current interest in Celtic mythology or in the tensions between Christianity and insular folk beliefs contrasts with militaristic Arthurian milieu of Jack Whyte and Bernard Cornwell. Romanticized nostalgia from Tennyson to T.H. White is countered by the austere elegance of Robert Bresson's film Lancelot du Lac.

These texts are lengthy and complex, so be prepared for much reading in order to participate fully in the work of the semester. There will be several short writing exercises, two extended essays (4-5 pp.), and a longer final paper (12-20 pp.)

Satisfies the English BA core requirement for poetry.


Course Information from the University Catalog

Credits: 3

Studies selected topics, genres, themes or authors in medieval or Renaissance literature and culture. Notes: May be taken for credit by English or history majors. Specific topic may vary. Primary emphasis is literary or historical, depending on discipline of instructor. May consider relevant material from philosophy, theology, and art. May be repeated when topic is different. Equivalent to FRLN 431, HIST 431.
Specialized Designation: Scholarly Inquiry
Recommended Prerequisite: Satisfaction of University requirements in 100-level English and in Mason Core literature.
Schedule Type: Lecture

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