King Arthur: History and Legend

King ArthurKing Arthur: History and Legend
Professor Dorsey Armstrong Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $44.95 when on sale
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Listening to lectures from the Great Courses on my iPod is integral to my exercise routine, whether I’m walking, doing yard work, or on the treadmill. I almost always enjoy my courses, though I rarely review them here. Every once in a while, though, I listen to a course that I have to share. King Arthur: History and Legend is one of those.

I have listened to two other courses by Dorsey Armstrong, so I knew that I would enjoy her presentation style, and as her specialty is medieval literature I knew that she would know the subject matter. She is, in fact, editor of the academic journal Arthuriana.

The course does not disappoint. Dorsey starts with a discussion of the historical roots of Arthur, and how the legend is probably based on a tribal chief who led a group of clans in the fight against invaders after the Romans left the island of Britain in the fifth century. She takes the legend all the way through to the twenty-first century. Along the way she describes how the legend evolved. She explains that Lancelot was a fairly late addition by the French. She tells us how the stories were retold in German and even Scandinavian traditions. She discusses how the legend reached the height of its popularity in the medieval period after the publication of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, and how interest waned until it picked up again with Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King in the nineteenth century.

If you are fascinated by the Arthur legend, you will love this course.

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