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The course examines the earliest emergence of stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in the context of the first wave of British Imperialism and the expanded powers assumed by the Catholic Church during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The morphology of Arthurian romance will be set off against original historical documents and chronicle sources for the English conquests in Brittany, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland to understand the ways in which these new attitudes towards Empire were being mythologized. Authors will include Bede, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chrétien de Troyes, Marie de France, Gerald of Wales, together with some lesser known works like the Perilous Graveyard, the Knight with the Sword, and Perlesvaus, or the High History of the Holy Graal. Special attention will be paid to how the narrative material of the story gets transformed according to the particular religious and political agendas of each new author. Reading assignments will generally consist of 150-200 pages per week; one oral presentation turned into a 5-page paper the following week; a midterm 5-page paper focussed on a close textual reading; and a final 10-page paper on the student's independent research.


The final grade for this class will be computed according to the following weighted scale:

Class Participation 25%
Oral Presentation with 5-page Write-Up 25%
Midterm Paper on Close Textual Reading (5 Pages) 15%
Final Paper (10 Pages) 35%

Class Participation and Attendance

Active contribution to class discussion constitutes a significant portion of the final grade. Students are expected to be fully prepared in the assigned readings and to be ready to speak in every class. Attendance at all class meetings is required, and each unexcused absence will result in a 5% reduction in the Class Participation component of your grade. To have an absence excused, you must apply to the instructor in person, by phone, or by e-mail prior to the class that is to be missed.

Oral Presentation

Each student will be required to make one 10-minute presentation to the rest of the class on an independent research topic chosen from a list (on either of the two days allotted during the semester). One week after the presentation, a more formal 5-page write-up will be submitted.

Midterm Paper

A 5-page paper on an assigned topic will be required halfway through the semester.

Final Paper

A 10-page final paper, synthesizing the work of the entire semester, will be required on the last day of class. Students will choose their own topics based on the texts covered in class and will be required to submit their topics for instructor approval three weeks before the deadline. Students are encouraged to schedule a meeting with the instructor to discuss their ideas, evidence, and plan of argumentation as they progress. No extensions will be given beyond the last day of class.

Late Paper Policy

All papers, including the write-up of the oral presentation, may receive an automatic extension for one class period upon consultation with the instructor prior to the day the assignment was to be turned in. Further lateness will result in a reduction of 1/3 of a grade for each class the paper is overdue beyond that time. No extensions will be granted for the final paper.

Rewrite Policy

Any paper may be rewritten upon satisfying the following requirements:

  1. The original paper was submitted on time
  2. The student meets with the instructor to go over the paper
  3. The paper is completely rewritten from scratch and not just edited, and
  4. The rewritten paper is resubmitted no later than one week after the original was returned in class

Plagiarism Policy

Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom needs to be clearly stated. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work need to be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources should be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work and should follow the proper citational conventions.