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Professor Dorsey Armstrong is obviously a real Arthur geek, as well as a serious medieval scholar. Her enthusiasm for all things Arthur - past and present - make this a well-rounded look at the Arthur of the 5th century all the way up to the Arthur of contemporary books, films and advertising (King Arthur flour!).
So we get a look at what evidence exists for a historical Arthur. Whatever that long ago, charismatic and valiant figure may have accomplished, none can argue with the power and scope of the legends and ideals he inspired. Professor Armstrong considers the legacy in literature of the Western world and in fine art ranging from ancient tapestry to the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites to films and musicals.
Her emphasis is on the idealistic and romantic qualities which spread the legend, expanded it so much, and have kept it alive through the centuries. For me, a middling Arthur fan, there was quite a bit of new and very interesting information here.
I quite like the Professor's rather casual tone and her eagerness to include modern pop references. In this course, thankfully, there is none of the distracting "Great Courses" applause, although you may find yourself looking around for the source of the music that wafts in at the end of each lecture. My one qualification is that Armstrong does repeat herself more than necessary - and with the exact same words she previously used. For teachers in the classroom this may be a necessary and helpful tactic, but it's out of place in an Audible recording.
On the whole, I'd say this is an admirable quest.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
This is an exhaustive history of the appearance, growth, diversification and manipulation of the legend of King Arthur and his Knights. Dr. Armstrong is an expert in the literature associated with Arthur's legend through hundreds of years and into modern times. Her presentation is enthusiastic and full of side notes about how various bits developed. If you are interested in the "legend" of Arthur this book is for you. While I found some of this fascinating and have great respect for Armstrong's encyclopedic knowledge and obviously deep research there was a point where it became incredibly tedious. The point I think I began to lose interest is when I realized that the entire legend results from stories about stories about a warrior who may have been named something like Arthur (but probably not), who may have lived around the area of Cornwall in England (but there's no way to know) sometime in the mid 5th century. The entirety of the Arthurian legend (spoiler alert!) is basically 2000+ years of fan fiction. It was interesting to hear how this story, which essentially rose out of the mist and was completely fabricated, influenced and was influenced by culture and politics over two thousand years.
18 of 20 people found this review helpful
Dorsey Armstrong is a great storyteller and presents the facts in an easy to understand way. She has presented the legend from our most popular method of the medieval knight back to what is now considered to be his origins from Roman times up to variations of the legend today in all formats.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
I agree with other reviewers who have said that the content is too heavy on the history of the literature, with not enough about the actual or speculative history of Arthur as an historical figure. By halfway through I was quite unclear which parts of the story were in fact derived from historical fact, and which were later embellishments, and because the Arthur stories have been reworked and added to over time, there's a lot of repetition. This was a fun listen but really too long for what it contains.
If you’ve listened to books by The Great Courses before, how does this one compare?
This was my first Great Courses audio. I was looking forward to being challenged and stretched rather than entertained. Given Professor Armstrong’s obvious knowledge of and vivid interest in her subject, and the profile of The Great Courses format, I found the delivery too vernacular: it felt as though she’d written the content for an audience of highschoolers, for example her referring to the characters as ‘cool’ and ‘doing awesome stuff’ was misplaced.
Do you think King Arthur: History and Legend needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
The lectures have given me a better understanding of the history of Arthurian legend in literature and the development of the myth in popular culture over the ages; I’m ready for more Mediaeval History, but not with Professor Armstrong.
Any additional comments?
I admire that Professor Armstrong has learned Old Norse, Early and Middle English among others, but for an audio course a lot more care should have been put into the pronunciation especially of the German and English names. As a British listener I was very irritated by basic errors (Pre-ra-fuel-ites; Glaston-berry; Brit-ney). The German was awful.
1 of 3 people found this review helpful