Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Book--The Arthurian Way of Death

Out now from D. S. Brewer:

The Arthurian Way of Death
The English Tradition
Edited by Karen Cherewatuk
Edited by K. S. Whetter

It is arguably the tragic end to Arthur's kingdom which gives the myth its exceptional resonance and power. The essays in this volume explore the presentation of death and dying in Arthurian literature and film produced in England and America from the middle ages to the modern day. Authors, texts and topics covered include Geoffrey of Monmouth, the chronicle tradition, and the alliterative Morte Arthure; Gawain and the Green Knight, Ywain and Gawain, the stanzaic Morte Arthur, and Malory's Morte Darthur; Tennyson's Idylls, Pyle's retelling of the myth for American children, David Jones, T.H. White, Donald Barthelme, Rosalind Miles and Parke Godwin. Featured films include Knight Rider, Excalibur, First Knight, and King Arthur.

CONTRIBUTORS: Sian Echard, Edward Donald Kennedy, Karen Cherewatuk, Michael W. Twomey, K. S. Whetter, Thomas Crofts, Michael Wenthe, Lisa Robeson, Cory James Rushton, Janina P. Traxler, James Noble, Julie Nelson Couch, Samantha Rayner, Kevin J. Harty.

Karen Cherewatuk and Kevin S Whetter
1 'But here Geoffrey falls silent': Death, Arthur, and the Historia regum Britannie
Sian Echard
2 Mordred's Sons
Edward Donald Kennedy
3 Dying in Uncle Arthur's Arms and at His Hands
Karen Cherewatuk
4 'Hadet with an aluisch mon' and 'britned to noght': Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Death, and the Devil
Michael W. Twomey
5 Love and Death in Arthurian Romance
Kevin S Whetter
6 Death in the Margins: Dying and Scribal Performance in the Winchester Manuscript
Thomas Howard Crofts
7 The Legible Corpses of Le Morte Darthur
Michael Wenthe
8 Malory and the Death of Kings: The Politics of Regicide at Salisbury Plain
Lisa Robeson
9 Layde to the Colde Erthe: Death, Arthur's Knights, and Narrative Closure
Cory Rushton
10 Arthurian Exits: Alone, Together, or None of the Above
Janina P Traxler
11 Woman as Agent of Death in Tennyson's Idylls of the King
James Noble
12 Death as 'Neglect of Duty' in Howard Pyle's The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur
Julie Nelson Couch
13 Death and the 'grimly voice' in David Jones's In Parenthesis
Samantha J. Rayner
14 Roll the Final Credits: Some Notes on Cinematic Depictions of the Death of Arthur
Kevin J Harty

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kalamazoo Update: Why Arthur? Round Table Details

Here are the details for our session for next May's International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University. We will also offer a business meeting/reception with the Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages.

“Why Arthur? Reflections on the International Appeal of the Matter of Britain in the Post-Medieval World” (Round Table)

Co-Sponsored by the Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages and the Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Villains of the Matter of Britain

Organized by Michael A. Torregrossa, Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages/Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Villains of the Matter of Britain

Presider: Mikee Delony (Abilene Christian University)

PAPER 1: Joshua Fullman (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)
“Glorious Gods: The Eschatology of Camelot”

PAPER 2: Matthew T. Hanson (Cornell University)
“Arthur’s Popularity: Legacy, Hybridity, and Salvation”

PAPER 3: Heidi Breuer (California State University, San Marcos)
“Crafting the Witch: The Transformation of Morgan le Fay”

PAPER 4: Kara Larson Maloney (SUNY Binghamton)
“Perception and Joy: Political Commentary in Dryden’s King Arthur and Milton’s Paradise Lost

PAPER 5: Anne Berthelot (University of Connecticut)
“Arthur and Merlin go to France: Arthurian Fantasy in French”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Quest for Camelot Redivivus

I posted this on the Studies of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages Blog, but it also relevant here: The web site for the 1998 Warner Bros. animated film Quest for Camelot is still mostly active, and one can find a wealth of information on the making of the film, including some details on Gary Oldman's character, the villainous Sir Ruber, a Mordred analogue, as I explain in "Will the 'Reel' Mordred Please Stand Up: Strategies for Representing Mordred in American and British Arthurian Film" in Cinema Arthuriana: Twenty Essays (now in paperback), edited by Kevin J. Harty (McFarland, 2002). The site also contains a downloadable trailer, production stills, and some coloring pages for the young at heart. There are also interviews with the cast on site, though I believe they are all included on the DVD release of the film.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


In case you've missed it, the BBC series Merlin now airing on NBC offers some innovative takes on the traditional villains of Camelot. The series revolves around the lives of Uther Pendragon, king of Camelot, and youthful versions of Arthur, his son; Morgana, his ward; Guinevere, Morgana's lady in waiting; and Merlin, a newcomer to Camelot and a powerful magic-user. The basic premise of the series is that Uther, following the death of Igraine de Bois in childbirth twenty one years ago (more below), began a crusade to extinguish magic in his kingdom. This crusade continues in the present day of the series; Merlin and Morgana, a latent magic user, must hide their talents, while other magic-users, including series villain Nimueh, employ magic against Uther. (More details at Wikipedia.)

Morgana: The daughter of Gorlois, a faithful ally of UtherPendragon, Morgana was raised in Camelot following his father's death and is Uther's ward. Morgana, like Merlin, is attuned to the magical world, but she has yet to work any magic. Instead, Morgana's dreams are prophetic. Also, contrary to more traditional representations of the character, the Morgana of Merlin is benevolent (at least so far), and it seems likely (or so the writer want us to believe) that Arthur and Morgana might someday fall in love.

Mordred: Mordred, a young druid boy with magical abilities, is featured in "The Beginning of the End," where Merlin, Arthur, and Morgana work together to protect the boy from Uther. The Great Dragon, Merlin's adviser, warns him that Mordred should not be saved, but the young mage refuses to let the boy die. There is no suggestion that Mordred is either Arthur or Morgana's son, but the Great Dragon does warn Merlin that the boy, at some point in the future, will turn evil and cause Arthur's death, as in traditional accounts of the character.

Nimueh: Nimueh, a composite of the various Ladies of the Lake and Morgan le Fay, is a powerful magic-user who uses her powers in several episodes in various attempts to kill Uther. In "Excalbur," the most recent episode to air in the US it is revealed that Nimuh (as opposed to traditional accounts linking Merlin to the act) used magic to help Uther and Igraine conceive a child, but the forces of magic dictated that Igraine had to die so their child, Arthur, might live. As a result, Uther began his war against magic, killing Nimueh's friends and family, and she continues to seek her revenge on the king. Later episodes explain that Nimueh, like her analogues in other Arthurian stories, was high priestess of the Old Religion.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

CFP: Why Arthur? (round table) (9/1/09; Kalamazoo 5/13-16/10)



13-16 MAY 2010


Co-Sponsored by

The Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Villains of the Matter of Britain and the Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages invites proposals for 10- to 15-minute presentations exploring the theme of "Why Arthur? Reflections on the International Appeal of the Matter of Britain in the Post-Medieval World." We are especially interested in hearing the perspective of scholars outside of North America.


To paraphrase Umberto Eco, people seem to like King Arthur and the members of his court at Camelot. The Matter of Britain is at least a millennium and a half old, and, despite its advanced age, the Arthurian legend, as eternal as the Once and Future King at its core, remains a vibrant source for creative artists and propagandists to draw upon. Our round table session on “Why Arthur? Reflections on the International Appeal of the Matter of Britain in the Post-Medieval World” will explore some of the reasons why Arthuriana remains popular. We are particularly interested in answering the following question: Is the Arthurian legend simply a good story, which appeals to individuals around the world, or is there another reason (e.g. nostalgia for a lost age or hope for a better world) beyond the worldwide distribution and popularity of the Matter of Britain, even in countries with little or no ties to British culture? Participants in these sessions will offer a global perspective on the reception and appropriation of Arthurian characters—both heroes and villains—and themes from the end of the Middle Ages to the present.

Potential presenters should be aware that participation in a round table does not preclude the presentation of a paper at the Congress or participation in other sessions, though the Congress does limit individuals to three appearances in the program.

Please submit a 250-500 word proposal and completed Participant Information Form (available at to the organizing committee at Popular.Culture.and.the.Middle.Ages-at-gmail-dot-com by 1 September 2009. Please include the words “Why Arthur?” in the subject line.

Michael A. Torregrossa, MA
34 Second Street
Smithfield, RI 02917-3627
Founder, The Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Villains of the Matter of Britain
Co-Founder, The Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mission statement

The blog has been online for a while, but I just finished revising our mission statement while at Kalamazoo. I'm pleased to report that our time at the Congress was productive, and we will be co-sponsoring a series of panels for next year (i.e. 2010) with the Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages.


Recognizing that a hero is nothing without his or her opposite, the Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Villains of the Matter of Britain was founded in 2009 to foster further investigation into the various antagonists and antiheroes of the multimedia Matter of Britain. Characters, such as Agravain, the Green Knight, Mark of Cornwall, Meleagant, Mordred, Morgan le Fay, and Morgause, serve an important function in the stories of King Arthur and his associated cast of nobles, knights, damsels, and mages. By challenging the heroes of the Arthurian tradition, Arthurian villains enact a vital role as agents of conflict who initiate narratives that enable Arthurian heroes to attain renown and achieve their destinies, however the contributions of these malefactors to the Arthurian legend remains largely unexplored, both by scholars and creative artists, in contrast to the wealth of material that has been devoted to the protagonists of this tradition.

It is the intent of the Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Villains of the Matter of Britain to offer an annual themed panel or set of panels each year at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, which convenes each May at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, and additional sessions at other related conferences. Panel presentations will focus on the treatment of a specific character or linked characters and explore their activities as represented in texts produced from the medieval era to the present in the interests of producing a companion and comprehensive bibliography, comparable to Routledge’s Arthurian Characters and Themes series, devoted to each of the major Arthurian villains or themed collections addressing the representation of Arthurian villains, both major and minor, in select media.

Michael A. Torregrossa
7 April 2009