The politics of romancing Arthur in early English literature : Geoffrey of Monmouth to John Milton /

No Thumbnail Available
Le, Clear
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
While scholars such as Helen Cooper address the form of English romance over time to reveal the separation of the audience from the familiarity of its motifs, the specific ways in which the trans-temporal matter of romances engage with their historical moments also often become obscured. My study attempts more precisely to historicize each contribution to the tradition that I address within this time frame (ca. 1136--1670) in order to demonstrate the continued and particular uses of Arthurian matter to contemporary political discourses. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (ca.1136), Arthur functions as a centralizing figure in reaction to questions of succession after the death of Henry I in 1135, resulting in the extended conflict between Stephen and Matilda (1135--1154). Likewise in Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur (ca. 1460s and 1485), Arthur functions as a unifying ideal, suggesting the importance of domestic political stability in reaction to the turmoil caused by the Wars of the Roses in the early 1460s and 1470s between Henry VI (r. 1422--1461 and 1470--1471) and Edward IV (r. 1461--1483). In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (ca. 1375--1400), composed during the relatively calm succession of Edward III (r. 1327--1377) and Richard II (r. 1377--1399), Arthur's purpose moves from that of a galvanizing force among contested factions to a figure more representative of the cultural ideals, such as those associated with the chivalric code, that maintain social and political coherence. In Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1590 and 1596), Arthur, while ostensibly put forward as the exemplum of the virtues that will ensure imperial and cultural significance for England on an international stage, in practice, yields to the figures of Artegall, his half-brother, and Britomart, whose progeny, Elizabeth I (r. 1558--1603), displaces him in a political context that superannuated both his functions as symbol of national identity and paragon of chivalric co
Adviser: Marion Hollings.