Recent Trends in “Arthuriana”

By Katie Owens

I was able to find a journal that fits my topic perfectly. It is called Arthuriana and is produced at Purdue on behalf of the International Arthurian Society-North American Branch. It describes itself as “a multidisciplinary journal of Arthurian studies from beginnings to the present” (Arthuriana.org). It has been in publication since 1995, and continues to be released quarterly. The journal’s website says that they are the only academic journal in the world that is centered solely on Arthurian legend. This makes what they choose to publish especially important. In the last year, they have published a wide range of articles. Among these articles, however, a few distinct themes are apparent. These themes are gender roles within Arthurian culture and exploration of adaptations throughout time.

Surrounding the stories of the knights and their round table, there has been a lot of scholarship about the women of the legends. In the recent issues of Athuriana, there are numerous articles about gender and women’s roles. These include: “‘His Princess’: An Athurian Family Drama,” “The Girl’s King Arthur: Retelling Tales,” “Helping Girls to Be Heroic?: Some Recent Arthurian Fiction for Young Adults,” “Grrrls and Arthurian Stories,” and “Women’s Power in Late Medieval Romance.” This recent trend is not one that is only seen in this field. More and more attention is being paid to gender roles across literature, art, and politics. What makes it interesting in this field is that no one at the time when these stories were originally written would have been thinking about any of the ideas these articles represent. This creates an interesting idea of what gender issues are present in the old text that are able to be flushed out in newer texts.

Another trend that I noticed was studies of the changing nature of Arthurian legend over time.  Articles that fit into this trend include: “Malory, Hardyng, and the Winchester Manuscript: Some Preliminary Conclusions,” “Translation or Adaptation? Parcevals saga as a Result of Cultural Transformation,” “Ectors saga: An Arthurian Pastiche in Classical Guise,” “Tristram: From Civilizing Hero to Power Politician.” In addition to these articles, there were a series of reviews in the Spring 2012 issue of books that center around film adaptations of the Middle Ages. These two trends show that scholars are concentrating on relating different Arthurian tales to one another and see how that transform over time. (Which is good news for me.) This is important because it shows that no matter how much time passes, new discoveries will continue to be made. It also shows that adaptations and related productions continue to be made, 600 years after Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur.

By examining these trends, one can notice where the scholarship in the genre has been concentrating its focus recently. Issues of gender roles and examination of adaptations are both trends that can be seen in the most recent issues of Arthuriana. I think that these trends can be particularly helpful when considering literature as a whole. Feminist readings and issues of adaptation are present across the board in current criticism. It is interesting to see that in a genre as old as Arthurian literature, modern trends still apply to what people are finding interesting.

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