Malory's Magic Book: King Arthur in Children's Literature, 1862-1960
Trev Broughton, Matthew Townend
My PhD investigates representation of the Arthurian legend in children’s literature from the nineteenth century to the present day. Beginning with J.T. Knowles’s 1862 The Legends of King Arthur and his Knights and examining a range of adaptations of Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur designed for children (including Howard Pyle, Sidney Lanier and T.H. White), my research aims to produce a more nuanced understanding of children’s literature as a genre. I explore how attitudes regarding ‘appropriate’ content for children’s literature alter over time through two focus points: first, how authors rework potentially controversial aspects of Malory’s text, such as incest and adultery; second, the critical reception of their adaptations and whether this suggests cultural preference for censoriousness, didacticism or entertainment within children’s literature. It is generally acknowledged that certain themes – such as sex and violence - are problematic within children’s literature. By selecting a text replete with such themes and examining its transformation into works for children, I aim to infer authors’ conceptions of their implied child readers and relate this to a deeper understanding of children’s literature as a genre, and how it has developed over time in relation to sociocultural factors such as the expansion of the British empire and the two world wars.