Part 2 Question:

Malory’s work was a compilation of many of the texts we read over the course of this semester. But, he made many changes to them to tell the story in his own way. Which narrative do you think is the best example of this and how did the changes he made shape change the overall message of the story he was retelling?

exam question

We have read different portrayals of characters throughout this course. King Arthur is passive in some stories and assertive in others. Gawain is a knight to aspire to in some and other times lacks wisdom and is hot headed. Queens are voiceless in some tales and  are the driving force behind plots in others. Choose a character who you feel was portrayed the most differently.  How did the trait effect them and others in story a compared to an opposite trait in story b?  You want to argue that these opposite traits resulted in vastly different outcomes for them and others.

Part 2 Question

For Part 2 of the Exam

Throughout the course, we have discussed how each of the knights represents certain values of Arthur’s court. For example, Chrétien’s Romance poems demonstrate how Lancelot and Yvain represent the values of a courtly lover and a noble knight. In the second half of the course, we saw those same values lead to the fall of the round table in the “Alliterative Morte Arthure,” and Malory’s “Lancelot and Guenevere,” and “Death of Arthur.” Using any of the texts from before the death of Arthur, can you find any evidence of knightly values leading to the fall of King Arthur’s court? Were there warning signs that the round table would end in tragedy because of the inability of the knight to keep up their reputations?

Pham Proposal

So my paper had a slight change since writing the proposal. It’s a little more streamlined than what I originally had. Before, it was more of trying to get a broad understanding of medieval magic through several different texts that we’ve read (i.e. passages related to magic). However, I plan to focus on something a little more specific — prophecies in medieval culture, and the role those play within the texts we’ve read. As we know from modern interpretations, Arthur was always destined to be king of England, but Arthurian legend is riddled with visions and dreams of the future. My main goal within the paper is to examine the way medieval culture views prophecies and fate, and its role within the context of the texts, and how it might (or might not) further our understanding of them.

As far as the texts we’ve read goes, I’m going to be doing a bit of picking and choosing (as I originally planned to do) through the various texts we’ve read, focusing on the examples where prophecy, fate, visions of the future, etc. are being used. One particular example is the final dream Arthur has in the Alliterative Morte, where he sees the Wheel of Fortune, which is, as we discussed in class, something that, in medieval culture, was believed to control the fate of one’s fortune. The various primary sources will me more of a survey-type, so it’ll span across the different ones we’ve read, as opposed to one or two.

Because my proposal has slightly changed than the one I turned in, I’m also attaching a tentative outline of what I want to touch on in the paper.



“Yvain and Lancelot: The Complications of Knighthood”

My essay will be dealing with the romantic relationship between Yvain and Laudine within Chrétien’s The Knight with the Lionand the relationship between Lancelot and Guinevere in Malory’s work. I want to compare the two knights and specifically locate points in which their acts of courtly love differ and agree with each other. I also want to look at the ways in which they both seek chivalric status in the stories. By this I mean specifically looking at the ways in which the two knights attempt to boost their status when they are away from their love interest. We’ve seen that the times in which the knights are increasing their status they are sometimes compensating for something that is missing. For Yvain, we see that he is compensating for his time away from tournaments and when he resumes competing he fails his promises to Laudine. With Lancelot, we see that he competes constantly yet he hides his identity and often fails Guinevere by competing for other women. With this scenario we see a bit of an inverse, and it seems that the two knights are working in different ways to redeem not only their lives as knights but also their love lives. Finally, I want to look at the influence of Laudine and Guinevere and specifically look at the ways in which they influence and change their romantic interests. Ever since the beginning of the course I’ve been very interested in the idea of courtly love and how it acts and influences within the stories we’ve read. I’m also interested in the connection between the codes of chivalry and these two authors stories of love. By comparing these two knights I believe I could find interesting parallels and differences.

Some of the sources I’ve looked into so far deal with topics that I think would enhance this comparison. Harry E. Cole’s essay Forgiveness as Structure: The Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guineveredeals with the idea of forgiveness within Malory’s story and how it shows that Malory still finds a way to show that Lancelot is still a redeemable character despite his sinful actions. Despite Malory’s view, Cole still sees Lancelot’s relationship in a negative way. Yvain is driven to madness when he is denied by Laudine, but he finds a way back to an acceptable and chivalric status once he is forgiven by Laudine. For Lancelot, we see that he cannot find a way back to chivalric status due to the fact that he is sleeping with King Arthurs wife. Both of these knights seem to be seeking the same goal of being chivalric moral knights and good courtly lovers. The difference between them is the ways in which they attempt to succeed and attain that goal. So far the topic doesn’t have a formed thesis, but I want to boil it down to something that deals with chivalric code and courtly love within these two stories.

Any comments on how I could boil this down a bit more or ideas on the topic would really help. Thanks.


Paper Proposal

Working Title: “Alas That I Ever Was Against Thee!”: The Trouble With Arthurian Honor

In my paper, I will be examining the events of Malory’s Morte D’Arthur alongside Meg Cabot’s novel Avalon High. Avalon High presents Arthurian characters reincarnated in a modern high school setting, and presents the same issues that plague Arthurian court in Malory’s text, such as Lancelot and Guinevere’s affair and Mordred’s betrayal. Ultimately, in this modern text, Arthur overcomes Mordred and his court stays together. This success stems from his forgiving Lancelot and Guinevere for their affair rather than fighting with them, a marked difference from the events of Morte D’Arthur. This suggests an alternate path that Arthur could have taken in the original text, one that shifts the values the original story prioritizes.

The actions that Arthur does take in the Morte D’Arthur stems from his adherence to chivalric values, primarily honor. Malory’s text exposes the clash of such values with Christian values in multiple places, and this break between Lancelot and Arthur is certainly one. Forgiveness is a key Christian value, but neither Arthur nor Gawain wish to forgive Lancelot for his misdemeanors, something which they both come to regret as they die. However, in the moment, they choose chivalric notions of honor over Christian teachings of forgiveness. Reprioritizing these conflicting values could have led to a different ending for Arthur and the Round Table, which the modern text exposes.

I intend to investigate the events of these two stories and show how the differences in Avalon High all stem from those characters’ different priorities. Sources such as Sarah Hill’s “Recovering Malory’s Guinevere” provide excellent juxtapositions of the chivalric code and Christian values, which I intend to utilize in my discussion. Hill suggests that when the chivalric code comes into conflict with Christian ideals, the chivalric code wins out and violence ensues. It is this prioritization and subsequent violence that leads to the fall of Arthur’s court. Alternatively, we see in Malory’s text that Arthur and Lancelot’s fight can only be stopped temporarily by the divine power of the Pope, a physical representation of Christian values. I intend to investigate how the intersection of these two conflicting sets of values alters the outcome of Arthur’s story.

Final Project Proposal

The working title for my ENGL 361 Final Paper is currently “Courtly Love in BBC’s Merlin: It’s Not Just For Kings and Queens Anymore,” and I aim to explore the different manners of courtly love practiced in the BBC’s 21st century television show Merlin, with much of the focus geared towards the platonic relationship Merlin and Arthur have throughout the series. Drawing from Andreas Capellanus’ “The Art of Courtly Love” and multiple examples from the show itself, I plan to exhibit how the ideals of courtly love are featured in Merlin and Arthur’s relationship and how that strengthens their bond, with a comparison to Arthur’s courtly love with Guinevere romantically. The relationship between Arthur and Guinevere is not the most popular, or even convincing, one on the show, so how does courtly love play a role in that? I will then consider the effect these examples of courtly love have on modern audiences, and how that might have influenced the decisions the showrunners made.

Courtly love is a central aspect to much of the Arthurian literature we have read so far, so I’m interested in how that has translated to adaptations in the modern context. By analyzing the way in which the BBC’s Merlin attends to this topic can be a good way to evaluate that idea. The show also does a good job not only using these relationships as plot devices, but also as methods for character development. In David Tollerton’s “Multiculturalism, Diversity, and Religious Tolerance in Modern Britain and the BBC’s Merlin,” the author outlines how the ideas of courtly love, when coupled with prevailing ideas of tolerance, contribute to the development of certain characters, especially King Arthur.

Though sources such as that one will be helpful, this essay will mainly consist of my analysis of Arthurian courtly love in the 21st century “text”, BBC’s Merlin.

Jules proposal

The working title for my paper is “Malory’s Guinevere: The Role of Queen.”
In my final paper, I will be investigating how Sir Thomas Malory characterizes Queen Guinevere in his Le Morte Arthur, specifically focusing on The Tale of Sir Launcelot and Queen
Guinevere but also weaving in significant elements from later parts of the text (such as from The Death of Arthur, which will be relevant because of Arthur’s treatment of Guinevere after he must publicly address her infidelity to him, and her fate overall). Specifically, my investigation should uncover what the function of Guinevere’s role is in Malory’s writing and how much power she is depicted as having, as well as how this relates to (differs from? is informed by?) the 15th-century world that Malory was living in and the actual position of queen during this era. My purpose is to come to an understanding of why Malory chose to create Guinevere’s identity as he did; how he shows her operating as not just a woman/medieval lady, but as a queen; and what the implications of this are for how we interpret Malory’s contribution to the Arthurian canon. Some issues I am considering include how, in the “Poisoned Apple” episode of the text, we readers are given a Guinevere who has a significant (unexpected, maybe) amount of independence and political authority. Instead of whispering advice into Arthur’s ear and trying to exert her influence as queen through such indirect methods, she is making decisions more or less autonomously (critic J. L. Laynesmith points out how the role of king during the late Middle Ages was determined largely by how queenship was performed). Arthur’s presence in the court, meanwhile, is downplayed. For example, Guinevere “discharge[s]” Lancelot from the court and oversees a politically-strategic banquet to draw attention away from her affair with him (Malory 163). Later on, in the episode where Meliagaunt abducts her, Guinevere exhibits leaderly qualities. It is her knights that are loyal to her and whom she gives herself up to Meliagaunt for (“slay not my noble knights and I will go with thee” [219]). Critic Kenneth Hodges points out how key Guinevere’s “political role” is in Malory’s text and how her role as lover of Lancelot is overemphasized by readers (Hodges 55).

On the other hand, I also aim to examine how despite the independence and agency
Malory assigns to Guinevere’s character, she is also employed by him as a device that allows
Lancelot to shine. Malory invests much in Lancelot’s character, in showing him to be the most
noble and worthy knight in the world; his devotion to Guinevere is a main method of
highlighting this. So, Malory adds to Guinevere’s character traits fickleness and pettiness, which (despite her steadfast love to him) cause her to alternately dismiss and summon him. I hope to examine the difference between these opposing aspects of Guinevere’s character (powerful on one hand, while subsidiary on the other) and determine how they relate to the position of queen as it was performed in the 15th-century.