Grail Table

Tales of King Arthur

MEM 2500, 3 credits

Summer B

Starting with Geoffrey Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain around 1138, stories of King Arthur became immensely popular in England and France, in Germany and Italy, and in all the other countries Arthur was supposed to have conquered or visited, including Norway and Wales. Almost as quickly, skeptical historians were shaking their heads, declaring that there never had been an Arthur or at least that not everything written about Arthur was true. Arthur is indeed the "once and future king" around whom form political ideals and satires, historical propositions and archaeological efforts, and entertaining tales in all media--then, and now too.

In this course we will focus primarily on the medieval Arthur, with opportunities to consider later versions. We begin by looking at some of the surviving evidence of the sources Geoffrey used to create his King Arthur, and some of the theories about who King Arthur might have been. Most of our time will be devoted to reading medieval stories about Arthur written in England and France, including excerpts from Geoffrey's History,  a romance of Chretien de Troyes, the English romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, portions of the French Lancelot-Graal and of Malory's Morte d'Arthur, and a bit of Tennyson. Student projects will help fill in the artistic and imaginative efforts of the 20th century.

Students will be expected to keep up with the reading.

Syllabus for the 2009 course.


This mosaic, part of a huge Tree of Life pattern on the floor of a church in Otranto, near the tip of the boot heel of Italy, dates from the 11th century and identifies a king riding a goat as Rex Arturus ( Latin for  King Arthur).

BNF Fr 120, fol. 524v. 15th c. French manuscript illumination shows the arrival of Galahad at the Round Table. At the left, Galahad draws a sword from a stone. In the main part of the scene, Galahad is seated in the Perilous Seat. At the center of the table, the Grail is carried by two small angels. King Arthur is the crowned man, second from right.

Otranto mosaic

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Medieval and Early Modern Studies at UF

Southeast Association for Language Learning Technologies

Arthurnet email discussion list

International Courtly Literature Society

Media Library

Judith P. Shoaf, Ph.D.
Director, Language Learning Center

1317 Turlington
PO box 117300
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611