Faculty of Arts


Arthurian Literature

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for ENGLISH 340.


Arthurian tales of chivalry and love have entertained readers for centuries. But beyond diversion, the literary figures of the king, queen and the knight have provided focal points for cultures to work through their ambivalent feeling towards their society's power structures, institutions that on the one hand civilise, relieving individuals of constant fear of bodily harm, but on the other hand repress individual desire in favour of society. In our examination of various literary manifestations of Arthur, Guenevere and the knights of the Round Table, we will consider how medieval society developed some of the givens of Arthurian legend to invent, as Frederic Jameson writes, “imaginary or formal ‘solutions’ to irresolvable social contradictions” created by competing claims of individual and social needs. The course is taught in two halves, according to the language of the text—French or English—and the society from which it comes, but, throughout the semester, connections between texts—and sets of texts—are constantly acknowledged and explored. 

The objectives of this course are threefold:

  • to introduce students to Arthurian legend and the cultures that produced it;
  • to enhance students’ understanding of literary analysis;
  • to help students practise and further develop writing skills.

Availability 2018

Not taught in 2018


Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Tracy Adams
Roger Nicholson


Most texts are taught in modern English versions, or in parallel-text editions. Several will be distributed to the class, as (electronic) handouts.

French texts include major romances from the Lancelot-Grail and Chrétien de Troyes. English texts include major alliterative and prose romances: the Alliterative Morte Arthure, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur.


Coursework + exam


ENGLISH 340: 15.0 points


30 points at Stage II in English or FRENCH 200


ENGLISH 738, 746

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