Paper #2: Contemporary Arthurian Legends
Legends of Arthur
This list is short and idiosyncratic, intended only as a starting
place. The novels listed here are, for the most part, ones I find
particularly interesting. There are hundreds of novels with Arthurian
themes in print, and you should feel free to choose one of these, or
an Arthurian film, for your contemporary project.
- Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon. Enormously
popular. This book is first on the list only because its author's
name begins with B.
- Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising series. These books
are intended for 12-15 year olds, but don't let that stop you.
They are complicated and subtle.
- Bernard Cornwell, The Warlord Chronicles (The Winter King,
Enemy of God, Excalibur). Historically convincing.
- Tim Powers, Drawing the Dark, Last Call. Off the
wall. Drawing the Dark takes place in Vienna in the 17th
century and is largely about beer; Last Call is set in Las
Vegas and is about everything from chaos theory to tarot
- Walker Percy, Lancelot. Philosophical Southern Gothic
with an Arthurian skeleton.
- Mary Stewart, The Hollow Hills, The Crystal Cave, The Last
Enchantment. Centered on Merlin.
- Rosemary Sutcliffe, The Lantern Bearers, Sword at
Sunset. Sword at Sunset is probably the best historicizing
Arthurian novel ever written; it is now out of print.
- T.H. White, The Once and Future King. Written under
the shadow of World War II, this may be the twentieth century's
Your essay, 4-6 pages in length, should address not only how these retellings
modify the Arthurian Legend, but why. In class we have discussed the degree
to which medieval chronicles and romances are always already nostalgic for a
distant past, and theorized about the cultural circumstances which impel such
nostalgia. Why are twentieth century writers interested in reinventing the Arthurian
myth? What purposes (political, cultural, philosophical, personal) do such reinventions
serve? How and why are such topics as the quest, gender relations, selfhood,
political or national identity, the otherworld transformed in these texts?
Your essay is due April 15, by 5:00.