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Historical Arthur > Assignment about the Arthurian Legends

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message 1: by Nanna (last edited Sep 16, 2012 03:01AM) (new)

Nanna (nanna_sonne) | 11 comments Hello everyone


I have to write a big assignment and I'm thinking about investigating the Arthurian legends. Do you have any ideas to what I could dig into in relation to modern days/what effect they had? Or has anyone on here written about it before?
One of my major subject's are philosophy, do you think I could make a connection between that and the stories of King Arthur?


Nanna :-)


message 2: by Michael (new)

Michael | 42 comments One of the Arthurian themes is that of the decline of a high civilization into chaos and barbarism and the struggle to prevent the inevitable fall - I think there is a parallel to be drawn there with the modern-day political situation (though I'm not personally as pessimistic as I make that sound).


message 3: by Nicky (new)

Nicky (shanaqui) | 146 comments I think you'd have to pick what aspect of them you want to look at. As it is, you've got a very wide question ahead of you, and even when you break it down to something small there's still a lot of material to deal with. Are there any particular characters/roles you're interested in looking at? Any philosophical viewpoint you want to represent?

Do you have to focus on any particular text or whatever, or can you just survey the material generally? Even if you can, I'd keep it to quite a narrow field. For example, if you were going to look at, oh, politics or something, then stick to Tennyson and T.H. White. (T.H. White would be especially good for looking at the idea of might vs. right, exploring communism/socialism, etc.)


message 4: by Nanna (new)

Nanna (nanna_sonne) | 11 comments Nikki wrote: "I think you'd have to pick what aspect of them you want to look at. As it is, you've got a very wide question ahead of you, and even when you break it down to something small there's still a lot of..."

Well, I would like to put a philosophical viewpoint on the assignment, but I don't know what it should be?
I could be interested in Merlin, the tales of Tristan, Lancelot or the Holy Grail.

I could choose to make an analysis of either a book or a movie. You could for example analyse a T.H. White book.


message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris (calmgrove) Nanna wrote: "Hello everyone
I have to write a big assignment and I'm thinking about investigating the Arthurian legends. Do you have any ideas to what I could dig into in relation to modern days/what effect t..."


As Nikki says, you have to narrow your focus in what is a very wide field of vision. I would go with something you are very familiar with, as it's always worth starting with what you already know. You've mentioned four areas (Merlin, the tales of Tristan, Lancelot or the Holy Grail) that you could be interested in; decide which single one you'd really like to explore and make a mindmap of what you already know (or think you know) about it. Then you will begin to see where you are going to research in detail.

Unfortunately, you then go off target by suggesting you could either analyse a book or a movie. Narrow that down. Which book or movie do you know really well? How can you then possibly relate it to the area you've chosen?

Look, loads of people start with what aspect of popular culture that first drew them to Arthuriana: a Monty Python film, say, or Disney's The Sword in the Stone, Camelot or a TV miniseries; possibly one of the glut of so-called 'historical' novels about the Arthurian period (insert your favourite here .....); or some other trigger, like a role-playing game, King Arthur Flour or a theme park. You definitely haven't got time to read all the academic literature (hell, I've been studying Arthuriana since the 60s and am still no nearer to writing a definitive study) so do, do narrow your focus by using the lens of what you already have in your memory and experience.


message 6: by Nicky (new)

Nicky (shanaqui) | 146 comments If you combined looking at Merlin, philosophy and T.H. White, that could work reasonably well -- the whole book involves Merlin teaching Arthur different philosophies about how to rule, after all.

Tristan and Isolde would probably be good for looking at the idea of personal responsibility... Are they excused because of the love potion or not?

Lancelot and the Holy Grail could be looked at together, probably, because of Galahad.


message 7: by Nanna (new)

Nanna (nanna_sonne) | 11 comments Nikki wrote: "If you combined looking at Merlin, philosophy and T.H. White, that could work reasonably well -- the whole book involves Merlin teaching Arthur different philosophies about how to rule, after all. ..."

Thank you so much for the inspiration!
The first one "plays" really well with my subjects (possibly English and Philosophy). I'm thinking about making an analysis of the T.H. White book (Do you refer to the all four books, or could The Sword in the Stone be "enough?)

I will just have to talk with my philosophy teacher about 'how to rule' since we've gone through philosophers who talk exactly about that subject :-)


message 8: by Nanna (new)

Nanna (nanna_sonne) | 11 comments Chris wrote: "Nanna wrote: "Hello everyone
I have to write a big assignment and I'm thinking about investigating the Arthurian legends. Do you have any ideas to what I could dig into in relation to modern days/w..."


Thanks you so much for your response!

It's exactly the thing about narrowing it down I find it hard to do, especially because time is not in my favor ;-)

I've been reading a bit about Arthuriana in my free time (which isn't a lot compared to your studying, I know), but I'm thinking this could be my chance of discovering more about the world. I haven't read T.H. White, who Nikki suggests could be relatable to my subjects, but maybe you have? Do you think it could relate to philosophy (I don't know if you are familiar in that area?)

Sorry for my bad English, I might not that good at explaining myself :-)


message 9: by Chris (new)

Chris (calmgrove) Nanna wrote: "I haven't read T.H. White, who Nikki suggests could be relatable to my subjects, but maybe you have? Do you think it could relate to philosophy (I don't know if you are familiar in that area?)..."

I don't know how much time you've got to research before you get writing. As Nikki says, if you're thinking of going with White you've got all those issues about political power and responsibility and any associated philosophical framework, all of which is also very relevant to contemporary politics. Perhaps 'The Sword in the Stone' is more than enough to be getting your teeth into, without the ramifications of the other books ('The Book of Merlyn' is usually regarded as the weakest of the four books, and was published posthumously). If you've got six months to a year, then go for them all; if not ...

Everyone has their own personal interests: I would be attracted by the philosophy of the ideal knight as exhibited in the medieval romances (Richard Barber's The Knight and Chivalry would have been a good starting point for this) and contrasted it with the satirical portrait of the Mercenary Knight in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (as discussed by Terry Jones in Chaucer's Knight). Or, another interest of mine, the use of Arthurian motifs in modern popular culture and what little bearing these motifs have with the historical period that Arthur may or may not have lived in.

So you can see that the field is wide open! My advice is, read some Arthurian literature that takes your fancy (for example, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court is known as a critique of 19th-century American romantic views of chivalry, and bears little relation to the medieval reality, but did it matter then, and does it matter now?)


message 10: by Nanna (new)

Nanna (nanna_sonne) | 11 comments Chris wrote: "Nanna wrote: "I haven't read T.H. White, who Nikki suggests could be relatable to my subjects, but maybe you have? Do you think it could relate to philosophy (I don't know if you are familiar in th..."

I've had a course about political philosophy (from Platon to Rousseau), so that's why I thought T.H. White could be relevant when Nikki mentioned it. However I don't know which philosophers could be compared with the animals the Wart is transformed into (since I haven't read the book). The assignment is to be written in 14 days' time, but I can of course read the book before the 14 days (these are the days free from school (from the 7th-21th december), and are supposed to all be used on writing).

I'm thinking that the concept of the ideal knight could also be interesting to discuss in relation to philosophy where ethics philosophers try to figure out which qualities one have to possess in order to be "good" or "morally correct" (or the ideal knight, maybe?).
Not sure if I can relate it to modern days though (but most stuff can ;-)).


message 11: by Nicky (new)

Nicky (shanaqui) | 146 comments T.H. White would definitely be relevant to political philosophy -- at least, I did philosophy in my first year at university, and I could see how to do it. I'd just pick the first book, yes; the other books mostly put those ideas into practice.


message 12: by Nanna (new)

Nanna (nanna_sonne) | 11 comments Nikki wrote: "T.H. White would definitely be relevant to political philosophy -- at least, I did philosophy in my first year at university, and I could see how to do it. I'd just pick the first book, yes; the ot..."

Thanks so much! I'll suggest it to my teacher tomorrow, hope he approves ;-) If I may ask, which philosophers did you use, if you used any specific?


message 13: by Nicky (new)

Nicky (shanaqui) | 146 comments I'm afraid I can't help on that point. Your teacher probably can, though (if he's read it).


message 14: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 5 comments My ears perk up at any mention of T.H. White. Though I don't know enough of philosophy to really make a comment that will help. Because White was a contemporary of Tolkien (THAT'S RIGHT FOLKS!) and others, his book(s) focuses on a response to WWII. And a very effective response it is!! :) Hope you do well and good luck!


message 15: by Rusty (new)

Rusty Rhoad | 36 comments I'm certain you've long since finished this paper, so this comment is mostly to get my 2 cents in. I think the most interesting philosophy question about the Arthurian legends is: why do people still care? After the Geoffrey of Monmouth and followers had come and gone, there was lag in interest. Another period followed with the French romancers capped by Mallory; again, interest waned. A resurgence in the 19th century with Tennyson. BUT -- there is no lagging interest today. Arthur is a fresh topic, and there are thousands of us who will read the next book. So the question is: Why us? Why now?


message 16: by Nanna (last edited Aug 04, 2013 02:39PM) (new)

Nanna (nanna_sonne) | 11 comments Rusty wrote: "I'm certain you've long since finished this paper, so this comment is mostly to get my 2 cents in. I think the most interesting philosophy question about the Arthurian legends is: why do people st..."

Oh dear! That sounds very interesting as well, one would probably have to study our culture (especially in the Western world and of course the periods in history you mention) to answer this! I would personally be very interested in this :-)


message 17: by Rusty (new)

Rusty Rhoad | 36 comments Start with you. What in the Arthurian legends speak to you most?


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