Difference between revisions of "2007-08 AM Le Morte Darthur (1485)"

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==Jan 18, 2008 ==
==Jan 18, 2008 ==
Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court.
An electronic text can be found at [http://www.gutenberg.org/files/86/86-h/86-h.htm Project Gutenberg] - not too well to read online but worth a look for its illustrations. (This is an 1889 edition).
Whoseover feels like not reading but listening to the book might have a look at [http://librivox.org/a-connecticut-yankee-in-king-arthurs-court-by-mark-twain/ Libri Vox] which has a free legal audio of the book (downloadable either by chapter or in a complete zip-file). [[User:Nico Zorn|Nico Zorn]]
==Jan 25, 2008 ==
==Jan 25, 2008 ==

Revision as of 20:18, 21 December 2007

Bitte macht Accounts mit Euren Klarnamen auf: Vorname, Leerstelle, Nachname. Wir sollten zudem hier listen, wer an Bord ist, so daß wir miteiander Kontakt im System aufnehmen könnnen. Drei Tilden ~~~ geben, wenn Ihr eigeloggt seid, beim Abspeichern Euren Namen, vier eine Unterschrift mit Datum).

Teilnehmerliste (einloggen und mit drei Tilden unterschreiben): Olaf Simons,

  • Time: Fridays 4-6 pm
  • Place: A10 1-121a
  • Contact: Olaf Simons


Book 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21      Characters  Seminar  Text

The legendary King Arthur, the mysteries around his sword Excalibur, the stories of his quasi democratic Round Table, Arthur's tragic struggle between love, treason and an all too powerful enemy invading the British Isles have inspired the European audience at least since the early 12th century. The wave of Provencal, Middle High German and Middle English versified Arthurian romances composed around 1200 merged into the production of the first modern European prose romances in the 15th century which culminated - another century later - in the Amadis, the "arch romance" devoured by Don Quixote. The 17th and 18th centuries distanced themselves both from the erroneous histories related here and from the genre of romances they had inspired. A new interest arose at the beginning of the 19th century with the new nationalism of the age, its self proclaimed "romanticism", its quest for lost identities one could hope to find in the "dark ages". A rediscovery of "medieval" texts followed in which the Arthurian world offered the most interesting mythical images; it is today omnipresent as a cultural phenomenon with a mass production of fantasy novels, video games and movies.

The course will focus on William Caxton's edition of Sir Thomas Malroy's Le Morte Darthur first published in 1485 - most certainly not the elegant, witty and beautiful reading earlier versified romances provided, yet the text which most effectively compiled the plots of the preceding romantic production.

Why was there an audience for this book at the "beginning" of the "Modern Period"? How did it relate to the preceding production of romances and histories? How does it compare to the fashionable Amadis the next century was to love so much? How does it read within the context of the 19th and 20th century renaissance of the Arthurian world? The course will offer a cultural history of the text and its fictional world.

Oct 26 2007: Introduction

Brainstorming. Who needs what? Who is going to conclude this course with a piece of written work? Introduction History of Malory's Book.

Nov 2, 2007: Reading into the (peculiar) text

Discussion of seminar topics - and advice to claim and specify them in the section bellow. We read into Le Morte Darthur, Caxton's preface and chapters 1-3. Concepts of history, aspects of fatalism. Also: Great vowel shift and Caxton's spelling.

Nov 9, 2007: Caxton's Book 1

Homework: Read Book one. Seminar discussion: Arthur's dubious birth, miracles, reading experiences. Also: comparison with Knights of the Round Table (1953), the movie we eventually watched.

Nov 16, 2007

Homework: Three Groups read Books 2/3/4 .

Class: Discussion: Why have the Arthurian and Germanic mythological worlds become that attractive? - Fantasy, NS-Ideology, Lord of the Rings, Starwars. Simple option: We live in a complex time and need the simplified worlds.

Is it just about simplifications? Why has fate become such a topic?

Returning to Morte Darthur we wondered whether Malory's world is one of clear morality, open conflicts between good and evil. We read into the first books and tried to discuss passages to get a notion of good-evil options, and did not get a simple moralistic point at all.

Nov 23, 2007

Homework: Read Book 5.

Class: History vs. Epic. Is this a world of archaic dimensions?

Nov 30, 2007

We discussed how to take a fast way through the whole text and decided to divide p.250 ff (our edition) into sections of 20 pages - and to produce rather more detailed excerpts. If I remember correctly I have to read pp. 510-530 (and was the last to take my share). In Order to allow others to work with our excerpts we collected topics - on the basis of seminar work individual participants planned, that is they gave ideas of what kind of information they were interested in and wanted the others to look for.

Nico Zorn promised to give my table script of the individual questions into this wiki. If you want to quote interesting passages of Caxton's version so that others can work with them you will not have to type them from the page into the wiki. I provided an html version of Caxton's text at:


You can quote with copy and paste from this website (use : to indent) as in the following passage:

Hit befel in the dayes of Vther pendragon when he was kynge of all Englond / and ſo regned that there was a myჳty duke in Cornewaill that helde warre ageynſt hym long tyme / And the duke was called the duke of Tyntagil

I'll create links for the individual books above. When reading your 20 pages, think of what might be interesting in the passages you read, so that we can later refer to your textual observations. --Olaf Simons 20:28, 30 November 2007 (CET)

Blackboard Script (topics of individual research)

  • Aspect of cheap entertainment (Chapbooks)
  • Prophecies, predictions of what is to come, moments of reflection when things happened as predicted
  • Marriage & Fidelity
  • Violence & second thoughts
  • Christianity and the heathen world, supernatural incidents, miracles, moments where other mythologies interfere (Herodes who has all male newborns killed and the attempt to kill Mordred as an infant
  • Family ties and what they mean
  • Gender roles
  • Is this text historical or fictional, do we get proofs, sources, doubts second thoughts on the status of the stories. Is it a romance or a book of histories?
  • Modern adaptations: key scenes (which that are is yet to be determined)
  • Concepts of honour and morality in general and individual
  • Movie adaptations - where they create their own concepts of morality - what is a hero? what is honour?
  • The exploitation of the whole book - note if you come across stories of personnel you found in other contexts

Not under all circumstances everything strange or noteworthy. Try to determine what importance the 20 pages you read might have for the whole.

--Nico Zorn 21:30, 30 November 2007 (CET) / --Olaf Simons 15:10, 1 December 2007 (CET)

Dec 7, 2007

Dec 14, 2007

Dec 21, 2007

I will offer a summary of Wolfram von Eschenbach's German Parzival (1200-1215) - we should try together to give a plot outline or rather an outline of the different plots of the grail quest in Malory's Morte Darthur. --Olaf Simons 18:56, 20 December 2007 (CET)

Jan 11, 2007

Jan 18, 2008

Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court.

An electronic text can be found at Project Gutenberg - not too well to read online but worth a look for its illustrations. (This is an 1889 edition).

Whoseover feels like not reading but listening to the book might have a look at Libri Vox which has a free legal audio of the book (downloadable either by chapter or in a complete zip-file). Nico Zorn

Jan 25, 2008

Feb 1, 2008

Feb 6, 2008


Those who are planning to join the seminar may contribute thoughts on what they'd like to do in the following list:

  • Sources in Europe's mythology and historyKatharina Debney 11:44, 23 November 2007 (CET)
  • Foreshadowings - a world of predetermination Katharina K. 21:31, 8 November 2007 (CET)
  • Family ties BettinaKorte 22:26, 15 November 2007 (CET)
  • Justice Johanna Ehrhardt 12:39, 9 November 2007 (CET) Johanna Ehrhardt
  • The use of repetitive patterns
  • Who has to solve the problem? - special and normal quests
  • Love and gender relations Julia Mudder 18:05, 9 November 2007 (CET)
  • Miracles and the Arthurian World
  • Politics
  • Marriage and fidelityFreya 09:06, 7 November 2007 (CET)
  • The legitimation of violence Inga 13:34, 9 November 2007 (CET)
  • The legitimation of power
  • Christianity--What is its function in the stories? Christian Schultz-BrummerNahl3372 18:05, 7 November 2007 (CET)
  • The Heroes at King Arthur's Court: Stereotypes or Individuals?--Annika Alberts 12:24, 21 December 2007 (CET)
  • Battle Scenes
  • Hidden and Lost Identities
  • A Renaissance of Chivalry at the Beginning of the Modern Era
  • Geography in Malory's Le More Darthur
  • The Public in Malory's Le More Darthur
  • Le More Darthur - History or Romance?
  • The text which shaped our view of the medieval world: Malory's King Arthur and Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1889)Ulrich K. 17:57, 29 November 2007 (CET)
  • From Fantasy to video game Arthur's table round in modern culture (see en.wikipedia.org for modern adaptations of the sujet) Jens 11:05, 16 November 2007 (CET)
  • King Arthur and the Amadis (Commercializing of King Arthur) --Sebastian Henatsch 17:47, 10 November 2007 (CET)
  • The presence of the Arthurian world in the world of chap books
  • Individual ideas on Malory's King Arthur and modern versions and adaptations - be creative, propose topics and we will think about them


First of all: Read a German translation if you feel lost - I began my life with Middle English texts with a reading of Chaucer in German, which I then, a week later, combined with a second reading of the original. I read the original Chaucer aloud to get into the funny language (fill in your Plattdeutsch that helps), with the German text still in my mind I had little problems with the original and soon realised that I could from now onwards read such stuff without reading a German text before.

As to the English texts:

Malory's original manuscript is lost. For more than 400 years the edition Caxton had published in 1485 was the authoritative source. In 1934 the Winchester manuscript was discovered - a text between Malory's and Caxton's text. Traces of Caxton's ink have been found on the manuscript's leafs, Caxton knew the Winchester volume, he did, however, base his own edition on another, lost manuscript.

Modern scholarship has focused on the Winchester manuscript as the better text. The Norton Critical edition - it cost me 16 Euro a couple of months ago - is based on the Winchester manuscript; it includes, however, passages from Caxton's wherever his version is more detailed. The aim is a reconstruction of what might have been Malory's text, a text without omissions. The Norton edition is well commented and equipped with an extensive dictionary as well as a choice of critical articles. It does finally offer the most important sources Malory exploited. The Norton edition is my recommendation for all of you who like to work with a fully commented scientific edition.

I myself am more interested in Caxton's fist edition as published in 1485 and offered by EEBO - the text is, however, difficult to read:

To facilitate things I offer an html-edition of the same text (scroll down a bit to get beyond the reproduction of the first page):

My impression is that Caxton's is the easier text to read. The publisher focused on the plot, he lost some of the descriptions and he omitted some of the author's self referential remarks. Yet he structured his text and produced a straight forward version. My html-edition (also available as a word-file) is a simple transcript to be read with an additional list of difficult words to be found at Le Morte Darthur (1485):Dictionary - expand this list, wherever you miss words. I have contacted the Druckzentrum and they promised to provide a print-version of my Caxton html-edition by September. Contact me if you want to start your reading earlier and if you want to read the Caxton text. I will try to provide provisional copies in that case. We should also open Wiki-space at Le Morte Darthur (1485): Protagonists - for a who is who?


  • Eugéne Vinaver, Malory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929).
  • Bennett, J. A. W. (ed.), Essays on Malory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963).
  • Moorman, Charles, The Book of King Arthur. The Unity of Malory’s Morte Darthur (University of Kentucky Press, 1965).
  • Matthews, William, The Ill-Famed Knight. A sceptical inquiry into the Identity of Thomas Malory (Berkeley/ Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966).
  • Lambert, Mark, Malory. Style and Vision in Le Morte Darthur (New Haven/ London: Yale University Press, 1975).
  • Benson, Larry D., Malory’s Morte Darthur (Cambridge, Mass./ London: Harvard University Press, 1976). 289 pp.
  • Dillon, Bert, A Malory Handbook (Boston, Mass., G. K. Hall & Co., 1978).
  • Ihle, Sandra Ness, Malory’s Grail Quest. Invention and Adaptation in Medieval Romance (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1983).
  • Whitaker, Muriel, Arthur’s Kingdom of Adventure. The World of Malory’s Morte Darthur (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer/ Barnes and Noble, 1984).
  • Spisak, James W. (ed.), Studies in Malory (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications western Michigan University, 1985).
  • Jackson Parins, Marylyn, Malory the Cristical Heritage (London/ New York: Routledge, 1988).
  • McCarthy, Terence, Reading the Morte Darthur [= Arthurian Studies, XX] (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 1988), 187 pp. third edition with new title: An Introduction to Malory [= Arthurian Studies, XX] (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996), 176 pp.
  • Takamiya, Toshiyuki/ Brewer, Derek (eds.), Aspects of Malory (Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer/ Rowman & Littlefield, 1991).
  • Field, P. J. C., The Life an Times of Sir Thomas Malory [= Arthurian Studies, XXIX] (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 1993), 218 pp.
  • Archibald, Elizabeth/ Edwards A. S. G. (eds.), A Companion to Malory (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996), 252 pp. + Appendix
  • Kraemer, Alfred Robert, Mallory’s Grail Seekers and Fifteenth-Century English Hagiography (New York: Peter Lang, 1999). 105 pp. + Notes
  • Field, P. J. C., Malory: Texts and Sources [= Arthurian Studies, XL] (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1998), 313 pp.


  • Knights of the Round Table (1953), based on Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory, with Robert Taylor as Lancelot, Ava Gardner as Guinevere, and Mel Ferrer in the role of Arthur. bought
  • Sword of Lancelot a.k.a. Lancelot and Guinevere (1963), a film directed by Cornel Wilde and starring Mr. Wilde as Lancelot, Jean Wallace as Guinevere, and Brian Aherne as Arthur.
  • The Sword in the Stone, a 1963 Disney animated film about Arthur's childhood, loosely adapted from T.H. White's take on the legend.
  • Camelot, a 1967 film adaptation of the successful 1960 Broadway musical of the same name. It starred Richard Harris as Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guenevere, and Franco Nero as Lancelot.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), a comedic parody of the traditional King Arthur legend. It was later adapted into a successful Broadway musical called Spamalot. Arthur was played by the late Graham Chapman in the film.
  • John Boorman's Excalibur (1981), based largely on Malory and probably the highest rated serious Arthurian film. It features Nicol Williamson as Merlin and Helen Mirren as Morgan Le Fay.
  • First Knight (1995), a movie based on the abduction of Guinevere by the knight Malagant. It featured Sean Connery as Arthur, Richard Gere as Lancelot, and Julia Ormond as Guinevere.
  • Quest for Camelot, an animated feature from Warner Bros. Animation, released in 1998, features King Arthur ruling over a besieged Camelot.
  • King Arthur, a motion picture released on July 7, 2004, claiming (despite being heavily criticised for its historical inaccuracies) to be more historically accurate about the legend of Arthur as a 5th century, British-born, Roman Commander, with respect to new archaeological findings; similar in story line to Jack Whyte's books. bought
  • The Last Legion (2007) - a film about the last Roman Emperor Romulus Augustus who survives his fall from power and finds a new life in Britain. The movie links Romulus to the legends of King Arthur. In this movie, Arthur's father Uther Pendragon is brought up by a Roman general and a Malayalee woman (Aishwarya Rai)

The list is incomplete as Percival, Tritram and Isolde (got one movie of that) and Lancelot-stuff will belong into the same field. We might skip animated movies. --Olaf Simons 21:21, 11 November 2007 (CET)