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King Arthur: Inventing the Past

ENGL 421.940

From the Middle Ages to the present, stories about King Arthur, the brave deeds of the knights of the Round Table, and Merlin's mysterious prophecies have mesmerized readers and audiences. In this course we will study nearly 1000 years of literature about King Arthur, beginning with Geoffrey of Monmouth's twelfth-century History of the Kings of Britain, which inaugurated an era of great Arthurian romances in English, French, and German, and ending with the recently acclaimed novel, The Book of Arthur, in which the narrator discovers an unknown Shakespearean play about King Arthur. Throughout the course, we will think about what legends about Arthur mean to the way we write history and the ways in which we view our collective pasts (and futures). Assignments will include weekly response papers, an oral presentation, and a final exam. Texts include works by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chretien de Troyes, Marie de France, Thomas Malory, Mark Twain, and Arthur Philips.

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