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King Arthur: History, Myth and Romance in the Middle Ages and Beyond


Admission requirements

A good working knowledge of Middle English


In the late Middle Ages, King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table provided authors with an immensely appealing and versatile subject matter. Arthur’s life and reign were narrated in works of history and romance, exploring themes of war, friendship, love, kinship, fidelity and betrayal, nobility and dishonor, tragic choices and the possibility of redemption.
In this course, we will trace the development of stories about King Arthur from the seventh century until the late fifteenth century, and we will try to make sense of their great popularity and longevity. We will study the influence of genre on the treatment of the legend as well as the social and political dimensions and functions of the Arthurian cycle.
We will end the course by considering some of the ways in which Arthurian legend was reimagined, repackaged, and reused by poets, novelists, and filmmakers working in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, you will have:

  • improved your ability to read Middle English prose and verse texts, including texts written in non-standard varieties of the language

  • gained a thorough understanding of the development of Arthurian legend throughout the Middle Ages and its reappropriation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

  • further developed your ability to analyse works of literature, to understand these works as belonging to their historical and cultural moments as well as specific textual traditions, and to make interesting and meaningful claims about these works in both written or oral form

  • practised and improved your oral presentation skills

  • further developed your independent research skills

  • produced a final research paper that represents the very best writing you were able to produce at that moment.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load for the course: 280 hours
Hours spent attending seminars: 28 hours
Hours spent attending screenings: 4 hours
Time for studying the compulsory literature: 168
Preparation for in-class presentation: 10 hours
Final paper: 70 hours

Assessment method

Final paper: 75%
In-class presentation and participation: 25%
In the case of a fail, you are entitled to rewrite the final paper.


Blackboard will be used to provide students with additional reading materials

Reading list

  • Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain (Penguin Classics, 1977)

  • Larry D. Benson and Edward E. Foster, eds. King Arthur’s Death: The Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Alliterative Morte Arthur (TEAMS Middle English Texts, 1994)

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. and trans. James Winny (Broadview Literary Texts, 1995)

  • Middle English Romances, ed. Stephen H.A. Shepherd (Norton Critical Editions, 1994)

  • Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, ed. Stephen H.A. Shepherd (Norton Critical Editions, 2003)

  • Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, ed. J.M. Gray (Penguin Classics, 1989)

  • Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Modern Library, 2001)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 527 2251 or mail:

When registering students of the MA Literary studies take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the coordinator of studies: Ms S.J. de Kok, MA.

Contact details

Literary Studies student administration Van Wijkplaats 3, room 002. Tel. 071 527 2251 or

Coordinator of studies: Ms S.J. de Kok, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 3, room 1.01b.