By Derek Pearsall

This witty and obtainable booklet strains the background of Arthurian romance from medieval to trendy instances, explaining its enduring appeal.Traces the heritage of Arthurian romance from medieval to fashionable occasions. Covers paintings and flicks in addition to the nice literary works of Arthurian romance. attracts out the altering political, ethical and emotional makes use of of the tale. Explains the iconic attraction of the Arthurian legend. Written by way of an writer with significant wisdom of medieval literature.

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Extra info for Arthurian Romance: A Short Introduction (Blackwell Introductions to Literature)

Sample text

This is undertaken in turn by Gawain, who reaches the castle of the Fisher King but fails to ask the question because he becomes distracted by the spectacle; by Lancelot, who also fails, though extolled as the ideal of knighthood; and by Perceval, who finds the Fisher King dead, so that the expected question is never asked (though we are by now pretty clear about the likely answer). He retires from the world to become a hermit after further episodes in which Lancelot and then Arthur and Gawain go to Avalon (Glastonbury) to visit the tomb of Guenevere, who has died of grief after the death of her son Loholt.

The nature of romance may be seen clearly from a comparison with epic, which is the literature of the more warlike and male-centred society that dominated in western Europe until the twelfth century. Heroic stories such as that of King Arthur are the celebration of the values of this society, most of which have to do with fighting. The setting is historical or quasi-historical; the events and persons are assumed to be real as well as important. The central realities of heroic literature are not love or honour but loyalty to one’s kin or leader, revenge, and the imperative necessity of asserting self (especially self as embodying a nation or people) through acts of power.

Our engagement as readers is not with the hero and other characters as individuals, with motives and desires of their own, but as representative actors in the high drama of chivalry. Lancelot will come to be pre-eminent because of the flawless precision, coolness and magnificence with which he shapes his behaviour to the code according to which this drama is played out. Knights, ladies, kings, queens, vavasours, fathers, wives, maidens, all have their proper behaviour mapped onto the complex grid of courtesy, generosity and decorum.

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