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"Old order changeth": Arthurian literary production from Tennyson to White

Gossedge, Robert Anthony ORCID: 2007. "Old order changeth": Arthurian literary production from Tennyson to White. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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This is a study of modern retellings of the Arthurian story, from Tennyson's Idylls of the King (1842-1891) to T.H. White's The Once and Future King (1938-1958). It has three main aims. First, while primarily a literary history, it attempts to form an integrated narrative of the modern Arthurian legend through the study of creative literature, scholarship, historiography, visual art, journalism and popular culture. Second, unlike earlier Anglo-American accounts of modern Arthuriana, this thesis concentrates exclusively on British literature, including previously-ignored retellings of the legend by Scottish, Irish, Welsh and Cornish writers and emphasises the influence of Celtic writing on contemporary English literature. Third, this thesis attempts to demonstrate how post-Tennysonian English literature is fundamentally different from earlier manifestations of the legend. The medieval and Victorian traditions, this study argues, were characterised by a series of literary revolutions, beginning with the creation of a paradigmatic text (Geoffrey's Historia, Malory's Morte Darthur, Tennyson's Idylls), which served the ideological needs of elite social groups. After the creation of such texts there followed lengthy periods of stable literary production which essentially reproduced and expanded the ideological franchise of the paradigm. Yet at certain points, due to major social and economic transition, the Arthurian paradigm no longer functioned effectively in its paradigmatic mould and underwent a period of crisis - only to emerge in a new paradigmatic formation. Yet the modern, post-Tennysonian tradition has not conformed to this hegemonic structure. In the absence of a paradigm, Arthurian literature since the 1920s has been characterised by a series of diverse and contradictory trends. Some of these have been nationalist in orientation, while others have developed directly out of scholarly approaches. Politically, they have been informed by a range of ideologies, from conservatism to feminism and from anarchism to clerical fascism. This thesis examines the causes of the breakdown of the paradigmatic structure in twentieth-century Arthurian literature, while chronicling the significance of the trends that developed in its place - shaping the Arthurian story into a much more British political narrative. Yet with the current breakdown in the conception of Britain as a political unit, the Arthurian story seems ready for another major shift in form and significance.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
ISBN: 9781303209550
Funders: AHRC, School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2022 08:44

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