King Arthur: History and Legend : The Great Courses: English Literature

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Dorsey Armstrong
  • Series: The Great Courses: English Literature
  • 11 hrs and 59 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

The saga of King Arthur and his court is the most enduringly popular mythic tradition of Western civilization. For over 1,500 years, the Arthurian narrative has enthralled writers, artists, and a limitless audience spanning the Western world and beyond - and its appeal continues unabated in our time. No other heroic figure in literature compares with King Arthur in terms of global popularity and longevity; now, each year sees literally thousands of new versions of the story appear across diverse media, from fiction writing and visual arts to film and popular culture. Delve into the historical mystery behind the figure of Arthur, and discover the magnificent breadth of these epic tales.
These 24 spellbinding lectures reveal the full scope of the Arthurian tradition, from its beginnings in post-Roman Britain to its extraordinary trajectory across the centuries and its latest incarnations in modern times. Your pathfinder in this world of mythic adventure and romance, Professor Armstrong, is one of the world's leading Arthurian scholars and the current editor-in-chief of the academic journal Arthuriana. Demonstrating both encyclopedic knowledge and an infectious passion for the subject, she leads you in tracing how the myth developed across time, clarifying many misunderstood aspects of the narrative, such as the origins of the Round Table and the figure of Merlin, the illicit love between Lancelot and Guenevere, and the varied manifestations of the magical Holy Grail. You'll discover how the legend was appropriated and assimilated by differing cultures, and how each writer and artist in the tradition reflected and commented, through the Arthurian narrative, on the concerns of their own time and place. The result is an illuminating look at one of the most engaging, entertaining, and influential legendary traditions the world has ever known.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A mixed bag... would be better with more Arthur

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The first twelve lectures are very "history of the literature" oriented and very light on the actual stories. She does get into that later (not enough..), but I think the order would be better swapped. Further, she spends a *great deal* of time in the last three (!) lectures talking about very loosely inspired modern fantasy books and popular films. I could see a little of that (to indicate lasting relevance) but she got far deeper into those works than I would have cared for. We could have had a lot more actual Arthur and a lot less "MIsts of Avalon."

What didn’t you like about Professor Dorsey Armstrong’s performance?

1. Throughout the course, she uses a great of childish unacademic language, repeatedly referring to Arthur as "an awesome guy", for instance. It got really grating after a while--I'm not a 12 year old. I get the feeling she is trying to come off as a "cool teacher" rather than an academic.

2. Despite claiming to be skilled in European languages, she brutally massacres every German word / name she comes in contact with (even Richard Wagner!). Really, there aren't all that many German words in the entire course and undoubtedly these names and terms are ones she is very familiar with from her research. How hard would it to have learned the pronunciation of the twenty or so that pop up?

Do you think King Arthur: History and Legend needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

Not from Prof. Armstrong. It's a shame because I do think she knows the material and is passionate about it. She has other Medieval history offerings with interesting titles from the Teaching Company, but I am shying away based on my experience with this one.

Any additional comments?

The professor knows her stuff, but needs to present the material seriously with some respect for the audience. Most people who buy these lecture titles are serious lifelong learners, not teenagers taking an Arthur course because they think it will be easy credit.

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- Sid Morrison

Exhaustive History of Authurian Literature

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.

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- John "I applaud all authors in the zombie apocalypse genre - even the "bad" ones. Keep doing what you do!"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-08-2015
  • Publisher: The Great Courses