King Arthur: History and Legend

Rated 1 out of 5 by from Tedious introduction I cannot write a thorough review as we watched the first six lectures and were very put off by the extreme detail documenting her sources. I understand this is very important to a researcher, but not so much to the average viewer. We have delayed watching the remainder of the lectures and may never get to them. Sorry for the negative review but we both felt the same way.
Date published: 2017-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course and it is amazing. I have purchased many courses but I have never loved one more than this. Professor Armstrong brings her subject to life and her expertise is so obvious. This one is just addictive.
Date published: 2017-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic and Enthusiastic! I've been a King Arthur fanboy for decades, and when I saw this course, I knew I had to get it. I was not disappointed. Professor Armstrong is not only a great fount of knowledge, but her enthusiasm for the topic is contagious. It is also nice to know that the professor is no snobby, Ivory-tower academic. I mean, anyone who considers "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" the best Arthur movie ever is a friend of mine! It's encouraging to know that the legend of Arthur is still alive and well. We can only hope this is true: Rex quondam, Rexque futurus...
Date published: 2017-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Historical enjoyment We are really enjoying this Dorsey Armstrong course. She has a wealth of knowledge and presents it in a way that is engaging and entertaining. She obviously has a great interest in her topic and likes teaching. Learning was never this much fun when we were in college! Most evenings, we watch Great Courses instead of the lame offerings of today's television.
Date published: 2017-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from King Arthur: History and Legend Little did I realize how rich the Arthurian literature was until Professor Armstrong so ably introduced the subject. With keen intellect, wit, and the best of academic communication, Professor Armstrong lays out the topics, both the "facts" as well as the "fiction," in ways that even someone who knows of the tradition only through modern movies can grasp. Her skill at communicating is, in my estimation, some of the very best the Teaching Company offers!
Date published: 2017-06-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Annoying Delivery Interferes With Content I have just reread many of the previous ratings. I find myself in a minority on this one. Content and subject are fine. The delivery style of the presenter, unfortunately, is not. Having purchase six other programs, I have something to base my opinion on. I much prefer the more even, erudite approach by William Kloss and Richard Brettell. I don't need to be reminded that the information is "not on the test." Scholarly presentations should not to reduced by use of "common" language and joking asides. I am satisfied by the content but would make sure to qualify my endorsement.
Date published: 2017-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Topi I liked this course so much that I took a trip to Wales, rented a car, and went to locations that are famous of the legend! The professor is no doubt one of the most qualified scholars on the topic. She is expert at medieval languages and history and literature. The course is a thorough examination of the legend -- much more interesting at the beginning of the course in defining the origins of the man than near the end as it covered every piece of literature through the centuries that embellished the stories. The professor was articulate. She told complicated details clearly and ventured her educated opinion on controversial evidence.
Date published: 2017-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely interesting! This is the 3rd course I have done with Dorsey Armstrong and I would recommend any of them. She is knowledgable about her subject and is at the same time an engaging teacher with a great sense of humour. She does a great job with the evolution of the legend of Arthur through the ages.
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tales of the Tale: Fabulous Professor Armstrong is definitely one the GC's 5-star teaches. Her enthusiasm and wit are infectious. This course hardly needs another high rating; but I will give it another anyway. This is the story of how a legend migrated across Europe, got modified, and interpreted through the centuries. It certainly enlightened me. You may want to quickly review the very early history of what we call the British Isles today before launching into the course. Rating the "value" of this course is a bit different than the many science, philosophy, and religion courses I have taken. There is some history in this course but I think it is mostly for fun. This course is not going to change your mind on how the universe was formed or if God really talked to Moses; but it will enlighten you on how a legend (or legends) can evolve through time, country, and language. My one suggestion for the course is: this course just begs for a 'glossary' of people's names. So many characters show up with different names as the legend migrated through countries and languages it would have been useful for the guidebook to have such a glossary.
Date published: 2017-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent professor! The instructor is very engaging and enthusiastic about Arthurian legends and artifacts. I highly recommend this to people interested in the development of medieval stories.
Date published: 2017-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Armstrong is fantastic!! I was thrilled to receive this course as a Christmas gift and have listened to it non-stop ever since Christmas afternoon. Dr. Armstrong is so passionate and knowledgeable about Arthuriana, is a wonderful speaker, and has a delightful presentation. I would sign up for anything she teaches!! I wish she were my everyday friend! Kudos!!
Date published: 2017-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect balance - introduction, interest, detail Prof. Armstrong was down-to-earth, exceptionally well-versed in the history and detail and entertaining. I'm in the middle of a long project of "catching up" on all the courses I would have loved to have taken in college/graduate school, and this was high on the list. I found this a wonderfully digestible and informative course.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great course, but "The British Worthy" is missing! I viewed this lecture series via The Great Courses Signature Collection on Amazon. This is a wonderful course! The presentation is fascinating and comprehensive. Professor Armstrong structured her presentation like a symphony, one episode leading smoothly to another, holding (at least my) interest all the way through to the end -- which came far too soon! I loved the little personal anecdotes she added and the delightful bits of humor thrown in to help make the material more entertaining and relevant to an interested audience. I say "interested audience" pointedly, as a lot of the material is pretty academic and specialized. If you're expecting the Hollywood take on the Arthurian legend, this course will probably not be your cup of tea. If you're willing to stay with it, though, the rewards would hopefully make it worthwhile. So, why four stars and not five? Dr. Armstrong laments the fact that interest in the Arthurian legend reached a nadir in the period from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment, only picking up again in the Romantic movement of the 19th-century. True enough, but there were some important exceptions. Notable among these is the semi-opera “King Arthur, or The British Worthy,” with music by Henry Purcell and libretto by John Dryden. Premiered in 1691, this delightful piece falls well within the “dry spell” of Arthurian works. I feel Dr. Armstrong should have, at the very least, mentioned this popular and important contribution to Arthuriana. That she did not takes away from the overall presentation.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Generally great... You always ask for a review well before I have had a chance to start a course, as I order new courses before I have finished the here is a general comment: I LOVE the Great Courses. I use them on a one-hour drive and back, weekly, to a volunteer job, and on long solo road trips. With one exception where all myths seemed to be tied to a theory of American exceptionalism, I have found them quite outstanding...BUT, I can do without the trumpet fanfares and the applause!! he lectures themselves are quite wonderful enough.
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sit in the siege perilous, and hang on! A great overview of Arthuriana throughout the centuries. Professor Armstrong's passion for the topic comes through in the lectures, and makes the story come alive. The early lectures address the historical evidence for Arthur, and then she traces the development of the legend from Britain to Brittany to France and beyond. Very informative and entertaining.
Date published: 2016-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from She is GOOD! Professor Dorsey Armstrong is a dynamic, personable speaker. She is authoritative, but not pontifical, about her subject. Her enthusiastic and animated presentation inspires her viewers to maintain attention, lest they miss an interesting point. She is clear, organized, and she makes excellent use of illustrative materials. Both sides if the issue are discussed in controversial subjects, but she also presents the most rational resolution of the differences when possible. I don't know what she could do to make the topic clearer or more interesting. If there were a six star choice, I would give it to her.
Date published: 2016-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating, from a truly great teacher I've enjoyed each course by Professor Armstrong, and just listened to her King Arthur course on CD. It's great. She's a very compelling lecturer, and loves her material. She starts with a very condensed history of Celtic Britain, the Romans in Britain, the Anglo-Saxon invasions and colonizations, and what we know from old texts and archeology about the British Celtic leader known to us as King Arthur. All of this is well told and very interesting. The rest of the course covers the evolution and variation of the tales of King Arthur, in England, Normandy, France, German, Scandinavia, etc. It's very well done and well worth buying and enjoying. I hope that Prof Armstrong does more TC course -- I've bought and enjoyed each one that she has done so far.
Date published: 2016-09-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A most unique course This was by far the most unique course I’ve listened to from the Great Courses, and one of the best. A mixture of history, myth, literature, art, music, film and pop culture. Professor Armstrong begins with the historical Arthur, and moves seamlessly into the development of the literature over time. She traces the development of the story as it becomes legend and myth, and we watch it become a sort of proto-fan fiction as the story spreads and is picked up by new writers who add their own take on the story and as already existing stories are grafted on to Arthur. All the most famous versions of Arthur stories are touched on, and many with which I was not familiar, especially from the modern era. She covers both the heavy (Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal) and the light (Monty Python and Twain’s Connecticut Yankee). I am now excited to go back and read or re-read many of the stories (or watch the movies or listen to the operas or study the paintings) that were covered in this series, now with a more critical and understanding eye. The best professors convey their own enthusiasm for the subject to their students, and that was never more true than with Professor Armstrong. She plainly loves the subject, and I get the impression that she would happily offer a few more lectures worth of Arthuriana over a pint of Holy Grail Ale if given the chance. Her style is casual, informal and easy to listen to, but at the same time leaves no doubt as to her scholarship and expertise.
Date published: 2016-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from King Arthur and Dorsey Armstrong My husband and I have gotten several courses by Dorsey Armstrong, and she is our favorite Great Courses professor. We enjoyed especially her sharing her knowledge of languages in this course. There are far more primary sources related to the Arthurian tradition than one would think, and she shares them, often reading them in the original language, then English. There were so many things she presented that we had never even heard of, and we have borrowed several of her recommended books from the Library to continue our interest in Arthur. She gives good advice which I have always followed: if you want to get a flavor for a particular historical period, read fiction about that time.
Date published: 2016-08-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dorsey Armstrong is Amazing I was interested in the King Arthur legend but I had no idea how interesting it would be in the hands of Dorsey Armstrong. What an amazing professor, her enthusiasm and ability to explain complex ideas using modern examples made the course very relatable. She also shed a lot of light on what I feel is a mysterious and little understood time and place in world history. I would highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2016-07-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Perfect introduction to medieval literature This is a medieval literature course taught using the device of King Arthur stories. The teacher is fantastic. You can really feel her enthusiasm. But the material is hard. It's in foreign languages. The stories are all over the place. And the subject matter can get a little heavy, especially when it comes to the subject of infidelity, purity, and the holy grail. The course is great at the beginning few and ending few lectures. The middle lectures are a bit of a slog, so it's possible that this material could have been shortened. At the same time, she is so knowledgeable about the subject that I would have liked a few more lectures on Arthuriana in modern culture. But alas, the course is designed as a historical trip through the writings in each century -- hence the medieval literature course. Suggest that for the next iteration, take out three or four lectures out of the middle (say, merge the Scandanavian lecture with some of the German lectures) and add more to the end (say, separate course on modern literature, movies, references, etc.).
Date published: 2016-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everything old is new again... Audio download. For those considering this set of lectures be warned that this is not a course dealing with history in a straight-forward way. Professor Armstrong (I really do think of her as simply Dorsey...mostly because of her brilliant speaking style) instead examines the legend (myth?) of (King) Arthur through a tapestry of literature, art and music, with only scant archeologically-based evidence. Did this guy exist? Was he a king? Did he really manage to conquer Rome (or what was left of it after it's demise in 410 CE)? Most importantly, does all that matter? Dorsey describes a vast world of 'Arthuriana' (Google that one!) intertwined within our modern culture in ways that pushes Arthur into the religious realm. Much like religious texts of Jews, Christians and Muslims, oral tradition and myths that were generated to teach the 'right' ways we should live our lives, were eventually recorded or written down, morphing into sacred texts. For example, allegories presented in the New Testament involving Jesus performing miracles assumes that Jesus was a real individual, when, in fact, there is little historical evidence of his existence. It matters more that Jesus' actions show a morality to which we should all strive. In much the same way Arthur's quests and sense of 'chivalric' morality provided fuel for the medieval authors to show the ever-increasing readers-of-yore how they should act, just for goodness sake. We need Arthur to have been real...we need his quests to have been noble and true. We all have our warts (yeah, I went there) that can be made to become a bit more bearable when we ourselves try to be like Arthur. Highly recommended edutainment, mostly due to Dorsey's engaging style and depth of knowledge. As always your quest should be to find this one on sale when you have a coupon.
Date published: 2016-06-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Of Two Minds about This Course I thoroughly enjoyed the course and her love of the subject is infectious. Still two thoughts kept running through my mind as I was listening. First, thank God I never had her as a professor as an undergraduate. Seriously, an 1100 page reading assignment. The second was 'Get a life.' I can't image reading the same story over, no matter how many variations it has. My loss, maybe.
Date published: 2016-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The professor clearly loves the subject. Her enthusiasm and sense of humour make this a joy to watch and make absorbing the information nearly effortless. We get so much more out of a course when we enjoy the professor.
Date published: 2016-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rounding the Quest: Arthurian Ethos & Pathos Journey through an INTERDISCIPLINARY Arthurian quest of history, archaeology, legends, chronicles, linguistics, literary traditions, various arts, complex thematic topics more enriching with each retelling and innovation, popular folklore, poetry, song, etc. KING ARTHUR: HISTORY AND LEGEND by Professor Dorsey Armstrong is an historical, scholarly, and artistic exploration of an Arthur-like figure of Romano-Celtic-British origins. Pitting Arthur’s commanding warrior skills, charisma, and required military logistics against the Anglo-Saxon invasions of 5th – 6th of late-antiquity following the withdrawal of the Roman legions from Britain and the fall of the ROMAN EMPIRE due to barbarian invasions is simply unimaginable but was temporarily successful. The Arthurian memory honoring this EPIC BATTLE (parallels to Homer and Virgil), its archaeological remains (Camelot), and early chronicles, becomes legendary and develop-mental that evolves into the Arthurian literary traditions across Europe slowly congealing into a MYTHOS influencing the ethos and pathos of chivalry, battles, round-tables, feudalism, Christianity, 2nd comings, knightly adventures, spiritual grail quests, magical powers, courtly love and medieval romance concerning beauty, betrayal, and fatality in the MIDDLE AGES. Literary interest wanes in the Early Modern Period, but reignites with a depth of complexity in the 19th Victorian Era and beyond into many artistic forms and cultural treatments. The professor’s knowledge of the literary traditions concerning ARTHURIANA includes comparative languages, major authors and monumental works, character complexity and development, plots and esoteric themes, classical mythology and tragedy, feminists’ perspectives on the relations and cultural values between goddesses / gods, and the feudal history and great minds of the medieval world, etc. (Note: participation in the course details the works, authors, themes, conflicts, etc., hinted at by the concept literary traditions). When combined, these specialized areas elevate the presentation level into an EXISTENTIAL MASTERPIECE enriching the legend beyond simply another academic subject into an intellectual, emotional, enlightening, and transcending AESTHETIC: An Archetypal Arthurian Worldview that is more than the sum of its parts. Therefore, a MEDIEVAL LITERATURE course presented by Professor Armstrong and offered from the Teaching Company is something needed. I quote from the guidebook to support my request: “In the 20th century, ENGLISH ACADEMICS would start to make the case that while a college education that focused on the classical worlds of ancient Greece and Rome was certainly valuable, there could be merit in studying texts from the native English tradition.” The merits from participating in this course are beyond doubt… *** Very Highly Recommended ***
Date published: 2016-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So much more to the story than I ever knew This course was so much fun. I watched it as part of my subscription to The Great Courses Plus, so while I didn't have access to the guidebook, I was able to watch it instead of just listen to it. Professor Armstrong is funny, engaging, and clearly loves her subject material. And I quickly learned that there is much, much more material involved in the Arthur saga than I knew. This is a course I could watch multiple times, and learn something new-many somethings, actually-each time.
Date published: 2016-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Once and Future Review King Arthur is a timeless story, and this course really brings it to life. This is the second course I've listened to by the same professor, and I've concluded that she is one of the best on the Great Courses. Her presentation style is clear, effective, and enthusiastic. You can tell that she loves the stories of King Arthur and the Medieval world. I was not sure what to expect with this course because I was not sure how it would be presented. The professor approaches it as a blend of a history course and a literature course, which works very well. She explores the historical foundations of King Arthur as well as how he has been presented in literature over the last thousand years. I particularly appreciated her non-cynical attitude toward the idea of a historic King Arthur inspiring the legends. She was critical but respectful of the legend's power in a way that many academics fail to achieve. I learned a great deal in this course and consider it among the best Great Courses that I have taken so far. I wish the Great Courses would make a similar course for other literary or legendary figures such as Robin Hood, Dracula, etc…
Date published: 2016-02-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Historicity I find myself in agreement with the other reviewers in terms of the breadth of Professor Armstrong's knowledge, her enthusiasm and presentation. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I know how much selective pruning the professor did to restrict this huge field of scholarship to twenty-four short lectures. Malory and Gawain and the Green Knight are often taught as the single focus of a course. Dr. Armstrong does manage to include every major Arthurian text and even some minor ones in her survey. Having said that, I felt that the professor's commitment to the idea of an historical Arthur lead her to spend too much time on tourist attractions like Glastonbury Abbey and the few mentions of Arthur in the aftermath of Rome's withdrawal from Britain rather than the origin of the tales themselves. The historicity of Arthur to me is a sidebar. It isn't until the fourth lecture that she introduces the Mabinogion. Though these Welsh stories were not collected until well into the Middle Ages they are the principal repository of an ancient oral tradition from which the tales we designate as Arthurian arose. It is in these tales from a pre-Christain Britain that the magic of Arthurian legend reposes and perhaps also the secret of their constant re-invention over the centuries. In the last disk of the lectures, Dr. Armstrong mentions the grail as an empty signifer. Semiotics as it is applied to literary criticism normally makes me run screaming from a room, but this was the gem of the course. It raises two essential questions: what about these tales has given them such cultural persistence and how does context inform their meaning? While the scholarly lazy manifestation of myself wishes Dr. Armstrong had addressed those question more directly, the intellectually curious self is utterly delighted. As the best teachers do, Dr. Armstrong has challenged me to go beyond the course and has provided a wonderful bibliography as a tool. I have already ordered Finke and Shichtman's book. Though I have long since left the halls of academia, advanced degree in hand, I miss the intellectual give and take of the classroom. The Great Courses for me is a vehicle for continued engagement with the world of ideas without having to write yet another paper. Dr. Armstrong's lectures are not a graduate course. She gives most people as much as they probably want to know about the Arthurian legend without bogging down in scholarly debate. As for me, while I was already familiar with of the bulk of the material, Dr. Armstrong's references to modern scholarship answered my own peculiar needs. i can recommend Dr. Dorsey Armstrong's lectures without reservation.
Date published: 2016-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from King Arthur: History and Legend This is the best of The Great Courses I have watched. The lecturer was easy to watch as she moved around the room and was quite animated. She conveyed her knowledge extremely well. The content was so informative and interesting. The scope of the Arthurian legend is so much greater than I had thought. In fact, I am going to watch it a second time to make sure I didn't miss anything.
Date published: 2016-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course! The professor does an excellent job presenting the facts about Arthur. I couldn't wait for each lecture as I listened each night before sleeping. I'm sure that I will listen again.
Date published: 2016-01-27
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King Arthur: History and Legend
Course Trailer
The Origins of King Arthur
1: The Origins of King Arthur

First, consider images of the Arthurian legend familiar in Western culture, and their relationship to historical reality. Trace the history of post-Roman Britain, the large-scale invasions of the Anglo-Saxons, and evidence that a single, extraordinary individual rose from the chaos to lead and save his people.

32 min
An Arthur-Like Figure in Cornwall
2: An Arthur-Like Figure in Cornwall

Investigate archaeological and historical evidence that support the existence of an Arthur-like figure in early Britain. Learn about the site of Cadbury Castle, the center of operations of a leader of great military and logistical skill who thwarted the Saxon invasion. Learn also about important lore surrounding the supposed tomb of Arthur....

30 min
King Arthur in the Latin Chronicles
3: King Arthur in the Latin Chronicles

Now explore some of the most significant early witnesses to the Arthurian legend. In Latin texts by the chroniclers Gildas (6th century) and Nennius (9th century) and in the Welsh Annales Cambriae, study accounts of Arthur's exploits and death in battle. Learn how 11th- and 12th-century texts later embellished the legend, elevating Arthur as a godlike hero....

30 min
King Arthur in Wales-The Mabinogion
4: King Arthur in Wales-The Mabinogion

Grasp how Arthur became a cultural touchstone early in Welsh history. In texts such as the Black Book of Carmarthen and the Triads of the Island of Britain, uncover key references to the Arthurian saga. In the tales of the Mabinogion, observe the portrayal of Arthur as an exalted royal personage....

31 min
Monmouth, Merlin, and Courtly Love
5: Monmouth, Merlin, and Courtly Love

Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain is arguably the most important literary artifact of the Arthurian tradition. Learn about the political nature of the text, the important elements and characters that Geoffrey wove into it, and how he established the basics of the Arthurian legend as we know it....

30 min
The Round Table-Arthur in Wace and Layamon
6: The Round Table-Arthur in Wace and Layamon

Discover the contributions of the Anglo-Norman scribe Wace, who translated Geoffrey of Monmouth's text into Old Northern French, and the English cleric Layamon, who created the first comprehensive account of Arthur in English. Compare how Wace advances the notion of courtly chivalry in the saga with Layamon's more brutal portrayal of Arthur's community....

30 min
Chretien de Troyes and Sir Lancelot
7: Chretien de Troyes and Sir Lancelot

This great Arthurian writer introduced elements of the legend that would become essential. Learn how de Troyes pioneered the genre of the medieval romance, developed the ethos of courtly love in his writings, and introduced the great heroic figure of Lancelot and his adulterous love of Guenevere....

31 min
Arthurian Tales in Brittany and Burgundy
8: Arthurian Tales in Brittany and Burgundy

Here, encounter the works of Marie de France, whose Arthurian writings developed themes of romantic love, the magical, and the noble. Then learn how Robert de Boron linked King Arthur to the spiritual and religious realms and introduced the Holy Grail, which figures prominently in the massive, anonymous text of the Perlesvaus....

30 min
The Lancelot-Grail Cycle
9: The Lancelot-Grail Cycle

This lecture explores the remarkable 13th-century work known as the Prose Lancelot. Discover the text's five parts, highlighting the central section, where Lancelot assumes his place as the greatest Arthurian knight. Delve into the Grail Quest narrative and its theological thrust, as well as the Mort Artu, detailing the tragic outcome of the Arthurian saga....

30 min
The Early German Arthurian Tradition
10: The Early German Arthurian Tradition

Study the key Arthurian texts of Hartmann von Aue, which delve deeply into questions of the balance between noble love, knightly endeavor, and devotion to God. Then grasp the brilliance of Wolfram von Eschenbach's portrayal of Parzival's wisdom quest, involving the magical Grail stone and the legendary Fisher King....

31 min
King Arthur's Other German Adaptations
11: King Arthur's Other German Adaptations

Numerous other German writers made their marks on the legend of Arthur. Among them, contemplate Gottfried von Strassburg's masterful text on the Tristan legend, Ulrich von Zatzikhoven's elaborate treatment of Lancelot, Wirnt von Grafenburg's story of the adventure quest of Wigalois, and Heinrich von dem Türlin's encyclopedic saga The Crown....

30 min
The Arthurian Sagas of Scandinavia
12: The Arthurian Sagas of Scandinavia

Follow the legend of Arthur into the literary traditions of medieval Iceland and Norway. Learn how Norwegian king Hákon Hákonarson commissioned adaptations of Arthurian works into Old Norse, and explore distinct differences in ethos, sensibility, and emphasis between the Continental and Scandinavian versions of the knightly saga....

30 min
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
13: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Delve into the fascinating narrative of this highly sophisticated poem, following the great Sir Gawain through elaborate plot twists on his quest to fulfill an astonishing challenge. Investigate the meaning of his journey, and consider the important questions it raises concerning free will, loyalty, shame, and honor....

32 min
The Alliterative Morte Arthure
14: The Alliterative Morte Arthure

In this dramatic culmination of the saga, study the events of Arthur's military victory over Rome, and his ensuing degeneration from noble king to ruthless conqueror. Reflect on the poignant final meeting of Mordred and Gawain, the story's bleak denouement, and the poet's implicit message regarding Arthur's character and the nature of war....

29 min
Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur
15: Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur

Thomas Malory's massive retelling of the Arthurian saga became a benchmark for all writers who came after him. Learn how Malory's text introduced the Pentecostal Oath, a sacred code of ethics sworn to by the knights, which Malory "tests" throughout the narrative as a model for noble thought and action....

31 min
Enriching the Legend-Tristan and Isolde
16: Enriching the Legend-Tristan and Isolde

The Celtic legend of Tristan and Isolde was assimilated as a key element of the Arthurian tradition. Study the narrative of the Tristan story as it emerged in two distinct literary traditions, and grasp how the story's appeal led to Sir Tristan being "co-opted" as a knight of the Round Table....

29 min
The Holy Grail from Chretien to Dan Brown
17: The Holy Grail from Chretien to Dan Brown

No physical object in the Arthurian canon carries more symbolic weight than the Holy Grail. Discover the origins and varied manifestations of the Grail, explore the most celebrated of the literary Grail narratives, and investigate why the Grail has fired the imagination of writers from the medieval world to the modern one....

30 min
Arthuriana in Medieval Art
18: Arthuriana in Medieval Art

Uncover rich depictions of Arthurian scenes in cathedrals and churches across Western Europe, as well as in privately commissioned artworks, and grasp why such scenes proliferated in religious settings. Learn also how a massive table, once believed to be the actual Round Table of King Arthur, was put to symbolic use by British royalty....

29 min
Spenser, Milton, and the Renaissance Arthur
19: Spenser, Milton, and the Renaissance Arthur

In a relatively sparse era of Arthurian literary output, trace noteworthy currents of the saga in Spenser, Milton, and the work of Renaissance historians. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, note the rise of Arthur's presence in popular ballads, songs, and poetry, and his remarkable portrayal on the stage in English and Cornish....

30 min
Idylls of the King-The Victorian Arthur
20: Idylls of the King-The Victorian Arthur

The 19th century witnessed an explosion of interest in the legend. Learn about the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose Idylls of the King inaugurated a new era of Arthurian writing and scholarship. Discover the extraordinary Arthurian works of the pre-Raphaelite painters, and delight in portrayals of Arthurian themes in stained glass, tapestry, and illustration....

28 min
Wagner and Twain-King Arthur in the Late 1800s
21: Wagner and Twain-King Arthur in the Late 1800s

In his two overtly Arthurian operas, observe how Richard Wagner adapted and modified the Arthurian legend to dramatize social and religious ideals, linking these ideals with Germany itself. On our own shores, grasp how Mark Twain satirized the saga in Connecticut Yankee, critiquing both European aristocracy and American society....

30 min
Once and Future-The 20th-Century Arthur
22: Once and Future-The 20th-Century Arthur

Among significant 20th-century treatments of the saga, begin with T.H. White's The Once and Future King and its ruminations on kingship, power, and governance. Also explore Mary Stewart's highly original Merlin Trilogy, Marion Zimmer Bradley's feminist The Mists of Avalon, and the brilliant comic book series Camelot 3000....

30 min
Camelot Comes to Hollywood
23: Camelot Comes to Hollywood

From the wealth of Arthurian cinema, investigate major film portrayals of the legend from recent decades. In particular, learn about the brilliant satire of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the weighty symbolism of John Boorman's Excalibur, the modern-day Grail narrative of The Fisher King, and the achievements and shortcomings of Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur....

29 min
King Arthur in the 21st Century and Beyond
24: King Arthur in the 21st Century and Beyond

Conclude by assessing the roles of the Arthurian legend in modern culture. Consider the associations of the saga in merchandising and the commercialization of historical sites, as well as its uses in pop culture and media. Finally, grasp the remarkable adaptability of King Arthur as a symbol of courage and hope....

32 min
Dorsey Armstrong

Every turning point in the medieval world discussed in these lectures shifted the flow of the river of history, bringing us ever closer to the modern world.


Duke University


Purdue University

About Dorsey Armstrong

Dr. Dorsey Armstrong is Associate Professor of English and Medieval Literature at Purdue University, where she has taught since 2002. The holder of an A.B. in English and Creative Writing from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from Duke University, she also taught at Centenary College of Louisiana and at California State University, Long Beach. Her research interests include medieval women writers, late-medieval print culture, and the Arthurian legend, on which she has published extensively, including the 2009 book Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur: A New Modern English Translation Based on the Winchester Manuscript and Gender and the Chivalric Community in Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, published in 2003. In January 2009, she became editor-in-chief of the academic journal Arthuriana, which publishes the most cutting-edge research on the legend of King Arthur, from its medieval origins to its enactments in the present moment. Her current research project-Mapping Malory's Morte-is an exploration of the role played by geography in Malory's version of the story of King Arthur.

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