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Unit information: Arthurian Literature in 2020/21

Unit name Arthurian Literature
Unit code ENGLM0079
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Mr. Steve Bull
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will focus on the Arthurian legend from early medieval to modern times. We will begin by considering the origins of the legend in Welsh tales and in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, and then proceed to the first Arthurian romances by Chrétien de Troyes. Medieval English versions to be considered are Malory's Morte Darthur and Sir Launfal. The post-medieval responses are as interesting as the original medieval legends. We will be focusing on Tennyson's Arthurian cycle, Idylls of the King and Mark Twain's parody A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court. We shall discuss issues such as the changing characterisation of Arthur, the conflict of love and chivalry, the roles of religion and of magic, representations of men and women, and the ways in which the Arthurian legend has been both idealised and parodied.

The aim of the unit is to give students a good grounding in Arthurian literature, medieval and modern, and to develop skills in close reading and in comparative criticism.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a diverse range of literary texts;

2. apply an understanding of critical and theoretical reading to specific issues articulated in the designated literary texts;

3. discern different critical perspectives on the literature studied;

4. identify and present pertinent evidence to develop a cogent argument;

5. demonstrate skills in textual analysis, argumentation, and critical interpretation, using evidence from primary texts and secondary sources.

Teaching details

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including long- and short-form lectures, group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Details

  • 1 x 5000 word essay (100%) [ILOs 1-5]
  • 1 x group project (formative)

Reading and References

Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain, trans. L. Thorpe (Penguin Classics)

Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances, trans. W. Kibler (Penguin Classics)

Marie de France, Lais, trans. Keith Busby and Glyn Burgess (Penguin Classics)

The Mabinogion, trans. Sioned Davies (Oxford World’s Classics)

Morte D'Arthur (Malory's Works), ed. Eugene Vinaver (Oxford University Press paperback)

The Poems of Tennyson, ed. C. Ricks (Longman paperback); or Idylls of the King, ed. J. Gray (Penguin Classics)

Arthurian Literature By Women: An Anthology, ed. by Alan Lupack and Barbara Tepa Lupack (Routledge)

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (Penguin Classics).