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From Mallory to Morgan: How Arthurian Legend had shaped with Time

-Katie Owens      

The stories of our past have a way of staying with us throughout time. This can come in the form of retellings of the story in its original form or in the form of adaptations. One story that has persisted in our collective memory throughout time is that of King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. From the time Sir Thomas Mallory collected them in Le Morte d’Arthur in the 1400’s, there have been countless retellings in the form of books, poems, television series, and movies. One particular retelling of the Arthurian stories in the BBC drama Merlin which aired from 2008 – 2012. This particular adaptation sees Merlin and Arthur as young men in the time leading up to Arthur being crowned king.

By comparing the television show to Mallory’s texts, I will examine the ways in which the two represent themes of chivalry and class structure. In order to do this, I will first examine the nature of adaptations in general and a brief history of Arthurian adaptations. Then, I examine the ways that both Le Morte d’Arthur and Merlin present these themes by looking in depth at specific characters and tales from each. In addition to exploring the themes of chivalry and class structure, I look at the ways that the time period in which each version was created informed the manner of presentation.

 

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Proposal

The Birds and the Bees are More Than a Sex Talk with Your Mother:

Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, and Ecocriticism.

Ecocriticism is a somewhat new field in the world of literary criticism. Critics are now examining works from earlier periods in order to find naturalistic elements. Ecocriticism is defined as “the interplay of the human and the nonhuman in literary texts,” by Cheryll Glotfelty. Texts such as O Pioneers! (1913) and As I Lay Dying (1930), by Willa Cather and William Faulkner respectively, are widely known to a variety of audiences. They have been torn apart at the seams and pieced back together like a puzzle. O Pioneers! is a text in which land and nature play a central role; however, in comparison with As I Lay Dying, the land is viewed in a more geographical sense.

An even closer look at the two texts reveals that there are links with human characters and their relationship with the land they not only live on, but farm and travel. The Bergson family in O Pioneers! not only builds but sustains their lives on the wild plains of Nebraska. The Bundren’s in As I Lay Dying, on the other hand, view land and nature more as a means to reach their destination. Although critics have explored Ecocriticism within the two texts, it is plain to see that there are underlying causes behind the reasons why one promotes a strong relationship with the land, where the other does not.

It is plain to see that the outcomes of both stories are vastly different. The Bergson’s, despite the tragedy at the end regarding Emil and Marie, live prosperously after many years of struggle. The Bundren’s from As I Lay Dying experience hard times from the death of Addie Bundren to the difficult journey to perform her burial and to obtain modern-day technologies. It is clear that the characters’ individual relationships with the natural elements of their stories are directly correlated with the outcome of their tales. The fates of the characters in conjunction with their relationship with land are tied directly to Willa Cather’s and William Faulkner’s own ideas about modernity.

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