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Arthurian Literature: Medieval to Modern - ENG00025C

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Lydia Zeldenrust
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2017-18

Module summary

Excalibur, Camelot, Tintagel… Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot... What is it about the world of King Arthur and his knights that has continued to capture the imagination of authors and readers for centuries – and still does today? This module aims to answer this question by taking a close look at various transformations of the Arthurian legend, from the earliest pseudo-historical writings of the twelfth century to the hugely popular romances of the high and late medieval periods, and through to modern retellings. As we examine the adaptability of Arthurian narratives, themes, and characters across the centuries, we will explore how each author might shift their focus more towards history or legend, how the Arthurian world came to be associated with (illicit) love, magic, and dragons, and what each retelling can tell us about its wider historical, cultural, and political context.

The module not only considers the endurance of the Arthurian legend across different periods and literary genres, but also pays attention to its international appeal. Although we often associate King Arthur specifically with Britain, some of the most important authors who first wrote about him were not English but Welsh and French, and it did not take long before Arthurian narratives appeared all over Europe.

Topics studied will vary each year, but may include: gender roles and the emergence of courtly love, the political use of the Arthurian legend, magic and the supernatural, the boundaries between human and nonhuman, the value of adaptation and rewriting, and the relationship between history and fiction.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Summer Term 2017-18

Module aims

The aim of this module is to introduce students to a range of Arthurian texts, from the Middle Ages as well as later periods. By the end of this module, students will have developed:

  • An ability to analyse medieval and modern Arthurian texts in relation to their historical and cultural contexts
  • An ability to think comparatively about the reuse of literary themes and narrative threads across different literary periods
  • A critical understanding of the different genres of Arthurian narratives, especially the two main strands of historical writing and romance/fantasy
  • The skills needed to carry out a small-scale research project as part of a group

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a foundational understanding of, and engagement with, key Arthurian literary texts from the Middle Ages to the modern day
  • Examine relevant critical and cultural contexts for medieval and modern Arthurian narratives
  • Successfully manage a collaborative project, making use of digital tools where appropriate.
  • Deliver a presentation, demonstrating appropriate oral, written, performance, and/or digital skills.


Task Length % of module mark
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Team Presentation
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Teaching for topic modules takes place in the first four weeks of the summer term, and you will have lectures and workshops from a small group of experts in your chosen field.

You will then have a further three weeks to develop the group presentation on which you will be assessed.


Task Length % of module mark
1500 word Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on all assessed work within two weeks. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is provided in a pedagogical spirit, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you would like to discuss your feedback, please consult your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours.

Indicative reading

At least half of the texts studied for this module will be medieval texts, and at least a quarter will be modern texts.

Texts are likely to include:

  • Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia regum Britanniae / The History of the Kings of Britain
  • Chrétien de Troyes, Yvain, or the Knight of the Lion, and Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart
  • Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur
  • T. H. White, The Once and Future King

Medieval texts in Latin and French will be read in modern translation, Malory will be read in the original.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.