Arthurian Literature


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 the knights of the Round Table, and the quest for the Holy Grail 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. 

For full course information see the Digital Course Outline. 

Digital Course Outlines are refreshed in November for the following year. Digital Course Outlines for courses to be offered for the first time may be published slightly later.

Availability 2024

Not taught in 2024


Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Tracy Adams


Most texts are taught in modern English versions, or in parallel-text editions. Links to the works will be provided.

French texts include major romances from Chrétien de Troyes.

English texts include selections from Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur.


Prescribed Viewing:

In addition to the readings, we will be watching some Arthuriana films. Information will be provided in class.

Recommended Reading

King Arthur and His Knights: Selected Tales by Sir Thomas Malory, edited by Eugene Vinaver Oxford University Press).


ENGLISH 340: 15 points


30 points at Stage II in English or FRENCH 200


ENGLISH 738, 746