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Unit information: Arthurian Literature in 2017/18

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Unit name Arthurian Literature
Unit code ENGL20060
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Putter
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 the evolution of Arthurian Literature;
  2. apply understanding of historical, cultural and intellectual contexts to readings of Arthurian Literature;
  3. discriminate between different critical perspectives on Arthurian Literature;
  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;
  6. contribute to group tasks and discussions and demonstrate skills in oral presentation.

Teaching details

1 x one-hour lecture and 1 x one-hour seminar weekly.

Assessment Details

  • One group presentation (approximate duration 15 minutes; normally 4 students per group) with handout for an individual mark (25%) [ILOs 1-6].
  • One 2500-word summative essay (75%). [ILOs 1-5].

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)

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).

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

Archibald, Elizabeth, and Ad Putter, eds., The Cambridge Companion to the Arthurian Legend (Cambridge, 2009)