ENGL. 4986: Seminar in Arthurian Literature

Instructor: Dr. Andrea Schutz
Class Time: T TH 10:00-11:20
Office Hours: MWF 11:30-12:30
Office: EC 319
Email: schutz@stthomasu.ca

This course will allow students to consider the evolution of Arthurian stories, their adaptation for different genres, indeed the creation of the genre of Arthurian Literature. Our objectives are to trace changes in the content and form of the Arthurian legend, to examine some of the external influences upon the legend, and to suggest and investigate some of the uses to which the Arthurian material has been and continues to be put. (We will also try to figure out what turns this legend into a feeding ground for the silly.)

We will also consider the following questions (among many others): what happens to the stories as their context shifts from heroic tale, to chivalric tale, to (modern) poem or novel? What remains the same, independent of generic difference? What changes as a result of national (or gendered) appropriation? A recent series of critical texts has focussed on the Arthur of the Welsh, the English, the German; Arthurnet has an ongoing interest in the American Arthur. Popular fiction has also been busy rewriting the legends with an interest in different characters, such that one might almost speak of the Arthur of the Women, or with a particular audience in mind, such that one must speak of the Arthur of the Child. There is also the question of Arthurian film to be considered, and this genre consists of much more than either Monty Python's Holy Grail or Boorman's Excalibur. In short, students will find that this course tests and reinforces everything they have learned in any other course throughout their degree.

Given the cross-cultural inquiry, most of our texts will be taught in translation; the exception will be Malory's Morte D'Arthur, since 15th century English is not so difficult as to require more than normalised spelling (and a student's flexible attitude towards syntax!).

This course fulfills the English department's historical category (because most of the texts date to before 1800); it also fulfills requirements in genre and cultural studies.

Reading List

(all books on this list are available in the UNB Bookstore, unless otherwise indicated)


Le Morte D'Arthur, ed. Helen Cooper (Oxford World's Classics, 1998)
Le Morte D'Arthur, ed. Stephen H. A. Shepherd (Norton Critical Edition, 2004)
The Romance of Arthur: An Anthology (Garland, 1994)
The Mabinogion, Jones and Jones, trans. (Everyman, repr. 1996)
The Complete Romances of Chrètien de Troyes, David Staines, trans. (Indiana, 1993)
The Death of King Arthur (Penguin, 1971)

  Required for Group A Required for Group B
First Middle English romance: Middle English romance:
Term Sir Launfal (on-line) Libeaus Desconnus (on-line)
Second Gottfried v. Strassburg's and Beroul's Tristan
Term Thomas' Tristan (together in (in bookstore)
  one book; in bookstore)  
  Didot Perceval (on-line) Wolfram v. Eschenbach
    Parzifal (in bookstore)

Handout of various short texts (distributed in class)

Optional text (in bookstore):
Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain (Penguin, 1988)

Format: Class discussion, panel presentations, some lectures


Seminar participation 20%
Panel discussions (1 each term) 30%
Minor paper (10 pages, due end of first term) 15%
Annotated Bibliography (due before Reading Week) 5%
Major paper (15-20 pages) 20%
Creative Assignment 10%