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Unit information: Arthurian Literature in 2015/16

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Unit name Arthurian Literature
Unit code AFACM1005
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Putter
Open unit status Not open




School/department Arts Faculty Office
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit is devoted to the Arthurian legend, as imagined and re-imagined by the major writers of the medieval and post-medieval period. Beginning with the first 'biography of King Arthur', by the twelfth-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth, we move from the earliest Arthurian romances (by Chrotien de Troyes) to Middle English adaptations and thence to Malory's vast (and most influential) Arthurian epic, The Morte Darthur. The similarly ambitious Arthurian 'cycle' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, itself based on Malory, provides us with one angle in our exploration of post-medieval Arthuriana. Another is provided by a selection of Arthurian novels, including Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court, which takes Arthurian themes and characters into the modern industrial world.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit students should have:

1. A good understanding of the development of Arthurian literature from the medieval period to the present.

2. An appreciation of the main writers in the Arthurian tradition and a sense of the distinctiveness of their contributions to the genre.

3. An ability to contextualize Arthurian texts in their wider historical and social contexts.

4. An ability to write critically about literary texts, and a familiarity with methodologies for reading literary texts historically.

5. Improved their skills in research, oral presentation, critical analysis and independent thinking.

Teaching details


Assessment Details

1 essay of 5000 words

Reading and References

  1. Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain, trans. L. Thorpe (Penguin Classics)
  2. Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances, trans. W. Kibler (Penguin Classics)
  3. Morte D'Arthur (Malory's Works), ed. Eugene Vinaver (Oxford University Press paperback).
  4. The Poems of Tennyson, ed. C. Ricks (Longman paperback); or Idylls of the King, ed. J. Gray (Penguin Classics).
  5. Of Love and Chivalry, ed. J. Fellows (Everyman anthology, 1993). Contains Sir Launfal. This romance is also available in a collection entitled Middle English Romances, ed. D. Sands (Exeter U.P. paperback)
  6. Maldwyn Mills (ed.), Ywain and Gawain [etc.] (Everyman paperback, 1992). Contains an edition of Sir Perceval of Galles.
  7. Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (Penguin Classics).

Items 5 and 6 are available for free on-line at Note that the Camelot site ( is an excellent resource for Arthurians. It contains bibliographies, texts (including the Idylls) and so on.