To me, methought, who waited with a crowd,
There came a bark that, blowing forward, bore
King Arthur, like a modern gentleman
Of stateliest port; and all the people cried,
"Arthur is come again: he cannot die."

"Morte d'Arthur" (1842)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Guest Post: Dan Nastali Reviews By Force Alone

Tidhar, Lavie. By Force Alone. Tor/Tom Doherty Books, 2020. $27.99.

This is a dark fantasy novel that retells the traditional Arthurian story, from Uther Pendragon’s taking the kingship of Britain to Arthur’s final battle at Camlann, with incidents and characters drawn from a wide range of medieval sources. Here you will find new treatments of the familiar figures at every turn, but unless your tastes run to the grim and gory, you may have some difficulty digesting this version. The story is set in a post-Roman Britain more fully conceived than that of most Dark Age historical and fantasy novels, and the action shifts, not always smoothly, between the natural and supernatural worlds. Both offer more than a little gratuitous ugliness in the form of mutilation, murder, cannibalism, general bad behavior and rather too much excrement.

The McGuffin in this story is the grail—here a skystone or UFO that fell to earth in Uther’s reign and which somehow became both the source of gold and radioactive mutations, but that’s just one of many original takes. The sword in the stone, the Lady in the Lake, the Questing Beast, the Green Knight, even Glastonbury Well are given new and typically perverted twists, because this is not a novel that loves the tradition. It is basically a series of incidents hung on the bare bones of the legend. Britain and Fairyland coexist uneasily here. Londinium, the setting for much of the early story, is a mess of Roman remains, crime-ridden slums and mob-ruled trades—a sordid, cheerless place. The castles of the other world are not much better.

Arthur, when we meet him (and who never develops much distinctive character) leads a teenage protection racket and a round table of petty thieves and drug dealers before taking charge of the city and dealing with rival kings. Merlin, the offspring of a human and some unidentified unhuman, is a major figure throughout, but one whose powers and motives are never well-defined or of great consequence. The same is true of other supernatural creatures—Nimue, Morgause, Morgan, Cath Palug—who interfere with the mere mortals apparently by whim.

Guinevere is here a leader of a girl gang, Sir Kay the obligatory gay, Owain and Agravain are thugs, and so on. Lancelot has perhaps the most developed character through an elaborate back story which has him serving his master, Joseph of Arimathea, but there is little that distinguishes even Lancelot as a distinct personality. The dialogue of all of them, as well as the voice of the narrator, is in the naughtiness mode of teenage boys. The obscenities are so plentiful that any shock value has been wrung out of them by chapter two, so thereafter there’s little effect at all.

Tidhar is a cut above the writers of most modern fantasy in his descriptive abilities and understanding of the historical background of his tale, and he is a writer of solid prose. He incorporates, often unobtrusively, allusions not only to obscure medieval material, but also to Greek and Roman philosophers, Biblical writing and early Christian apocrypha, and even, if you’re attentive, to T.S. Eliot and Kurt Vonnegut. The book has its admirers—the back of the jacket is covered in favorable quotes—and when the writing is good, I tend to become a slow reader. I’m also always interested in new treatments of the legend, but with By Force Alone, I found myself rushing to its end.


Dan Nastali

Independent scholar

Kansas City, MO

 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Arthuriana for Winter 2019

I missed this earlier in the year, but here are the contents for the Winter 2019 number of Arthuriana.

Details are based on the list from the journal's website.

 

Table of Contents
(29.4)



Introduction: Performing Emotions in the Arthurian World  
Raluca L. Radulescu 3



The Performative Function of the Socialized Body: Falling to One’s Knees in Hartmann’s Iwein and Erec  

Chloé Vondenhoff

8

 

 
‘Al was hi sward, wat scaetde dat?’: Emotions and Courtly Cultural Exchange in the Roman van Moriaen  
Frank Brandsma

28


 

 
Evadeam, Gawain, Merlin: Penitential Transformation and Unseen Truth in the ‘Dwarf Knight’ Section of the Vulgate Cycle  
Mikayla Hunter

44


 

 
Extreme Emotions: Sir Gawain and the Carl of Carlisle and the Danger from Within  
Raluca L. Radulescu

57


 

 
In Memoriam: Necrology for Dhira Mahoney  
Anita Obermeier and Georgiana Donavin

74


 

 
REVIEWS  
 
Ian Cornelius, Reconstructing Alliterative Verse: The Pursuit of a Medieval Meter  
Andrew Galloway 76


 
Miriam Edlich-Muth, ed., Medieval Romances Across European Borders
Leah Haught 78


 
Sara Harris, The Linguistic Past in Twelfth-Century Britain  
Scott Gwara 80


 
Geoffrey Russom, The Evolution of Verse Structure in Old and Middle English Poetry: From the Earliest Alliterative Poems to Iambic Pentameter  
Ian Cornelius 82


 
Judith Shoaf, ed. and trans., The Quest of the Holy Grail  
Ann McCullough 85


 
Alison Stones, Studies in Arthurian Illustration  
Alan Lupack 86


 

 


Journal of the International Arthurian Society for 2020

The latest volume of the Journal of the International Arthurian Society arrived last month.

Here are the contents from the publisher's website; the links will bring you to pages to purchase access to the articles:


Volume 8 (2020): Issue 1 (Sep 2020)
in Journal of the International Arthurian Society

(direct access at https://www.degruyter.com/view/journals/jias/8/1/jias.8.issue-1.xml)  


Titelseiten

Article Category: Frontmatter | Pages: i–iv | Published online: 22 Aug 2020

PDF

FREE ACCESS



Editorial

Leah Tether and Samantha J. Rayner

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 1–2 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020



King Arthur’s Charter: A Thirteenth-Century French Satire Against Bretons

Christopher Berard

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 3–37 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020


Love, sadness and other mental states in the Middle Welsh Owain (and related texts)

Erich Poppe

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 38–60 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020


Ships and Boats in David Jones’s Tristan ac Essyllt

P. J. C. Field

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 61–78 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020


La voix et la lettre dans les romans arthuriens de la seconde moitié du XIIe siècle

Danièle James-Raoul

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 79–106 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020


‘He ne wiste nother of evyll ne gude’: A Prelapsarian Perceval

Susanne Hafner

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 107–127 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020


Hybrid Identity and the Morte Darthur’s Lady of the Lake

Maggie Rebecca Myers

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 128–149 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020




Obituary

Dhira Mahoney (1938–2019)

Anita Obermeier and Georgiana Donavin

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 150–151 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020


Cyril Edwards (1947–2019)

Karen Pratt

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 152–154 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020


Barbara Nelson Sargent-Baur (1928–2020)

Alison Stones

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 155–156 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020


Muriel Whitaker (1923–2016)

Raymond H. Thompson

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 157–158 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020


Anna Maria Finoli (1923–2020)

Maria Colombo Timelli

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 159–161 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020


Maldwyn Mills (1926–2019)

Gillian Rogers

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 162–163 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020


Jacob Klingner (1973–2020)

Ludger Lieb and Christoph Schanze

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 164–166 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020




XXVIth International Arthurian Congress, Catania, Italy, 25–31 July 2021

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 167–168 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020



Biennial JIAS Essay Prize Competition 2021

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 169 | Published online: 22 Aug 2020 

 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Journal of the International Arthurian Society for 2019

(Apologies if this comes across messed up. It was not an easy site to extract the contents from.)

 

Journal of the International Arthurian Society
Volume 7 (2019): Issue 1 (Sep 2019) 

https://www.degruyter.com/view/journals/jias/jias-overview.xml?tab_body=latestIssueToc-78033

Editor In Chief: Leah Tether and Samantha Rayner
 


Titelseiten

Article Category: Frontmatter | Pages: i–iii | Published online: 01 Sep 2019

PDF

FREE ACCESS




Editorial

Leah Tether and Samantha J. Rayner

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 1–2 | Published online: 01 Sep 2019




Female Arthurian Scholars: An Initial Collection of Tributes

Samantha J. Rayner

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 3–41 | Published online: 01 Sep 2019




Female Arthurians in Scandinavia: Eufemia, Christina and the Modern Female Scholar

Sofia Lodén

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 42–60 | Published online: 01 Sep 2019


Abstract

This article traces the line between the medieval female reader of Arthurian romance in Scandinavia and the female scholar of today. It draws at ... Show More



sine mugens nicht erdenken: wand ez kan vor in wenken rechte alsam ein schellec hase**: Women’s German Medieval-Arthurian Scholarship

Evelyn Meyer and Alexandra Sterling-Hellenbrand

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 61–90 | Published online: 01 Sep 2019


Abstract

This article offers a survey of German Medieval Studies as a discipline, focusing on three generations of women’s German Medieval-Arthurian scholars ... Show More




Women’s Contributions to Middle English Arthurian Scholarship

Usha Vishnuvajjala

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 91–119 | Published online: 01 Sep 2019


Abstract

This article examines the history of scholarship of both Middle English Arthurian literature and its afterlives to argue that the marginalisati ... Show More



Celtic Heroines: The Contributions of Women Scholars to Arthurian Studies in the Celtic Languages

Krista Kapphahn

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 120–139 | Published online: 01 Sep 2019


Abstract

This article surveys some of the main contributions of female scholars to the study of Arthurian literature in the Celtic languages from the ... Show More




Thanks for Typing: Women’s Roles in Editions and Translations of Arthurian Literature in Penguin Classics, 1959–1985

Rebecca E. Lyons

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 140–162 | Published online: 01 Sep 2019


Abstract

Based on documentary research undertaken in the Penguin Archive in the University of Bristol’s Special Collections, this article highlights va ... Show More



Afterword

Keith Busby

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 163 | Published online: 01 Sep 2019



XXVIth International Arthurian Congress, Catania, Italy, 19–25 July 2020

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 164–165 | Published online: 01 Sep 2019
Toggle Tree Node


Obituary

Marie-Luce Chênerie (1928–2018)

Philippe Ménard

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 166–169 | Published online: 01 Sep 2019


Sue Ellen Holbrook (1941–2017)

Michael W. Twomey, Bonnie Wheeler and K. S. Whetter

Article Category: Research Article | Pages: 170–172 | Published online: 01 Sep 2019 



Sunday, April 19, 2020

Arthuriana for Spring 2020

The latest number of Arthuriana arrived in the mail this week. Here are the contents from the journal's website. Access is limited to subscribers.


Table of Contents
(30.1)




The Idea of the Wilderness: Gender and Resistance in Le Roman de Silence
Jessica Barr 3



‘She was recouered of that that she was defoylyd’: Recuperating Dame Ragnell’s Lute
Crystal N. Beamer 26

Women in Wood in Wynkyn de Worde’s 1498 Morte Darthur
D. Thomas Hanks, Jr. 54

Scottish Vikings and Norse Knights: Orkney as Palimpsest in Arthuriana
Leah Haught 73

*Winner of the ‘Fair Unknown’ Award*
The Role of the Lion in the Middle English Ywain and Gawain
Christopher Jensen 104

The Round Table: News from the IAS-NAB 125

REVIEWS

David K. Coley, Death and the Pearl Maiden: Plague, Poetry, England
Katherine H. Terrell 139



Geraldine Heng, The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages
Matthew X. Vernon 140



Nicholas J. Higham, King Arthur: The Making of the Legend
Christopher Michael Berard 141



Megan G. Leitch and Cory James Rushton, eds., A New Companion to Malory
Sarah B. Rude 144



Molly A. Martin, Castles and Space in Malory’s Morte Darthur
Kathy Cawsey 146


Friday, March 27, 2020

IAS Congress 2020 Cancelled

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Arthurian Society has cancelled its XXVIth Congress scheduled for Catania University, Italy, on 19-25 July 2020.

More details can be found at the conference website at http://iascongress2020.unict.it/.

Monday, March 16, 2020

CFP Movement through Arthurian Legend Conference (4/1/2020; Bangor, Wales 6/5/2020)

"Movement through Arthurian Legend" Bangor English Medievalism Transformed 2020

https://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/cfp/2020/03/04/movement-through-arthurian-legend-bangor-english-medievalism-transformed-2020
(and further details added from http://medievalismtransformed.bangor.ac.uk/)

deadline for submissions:
April 1, 2020

full name / name of organization:
School of English, Bangor University

contact email:
medievalismtransformed@bangor.ac.uk




Medievalism Transformed
16th Annual Medievalism Transformed Conference, 5th June 2020
Movement through Arthurian Legend

Medievalism Transformed is an annual event hosted by Bangor University, School of English, that aims to explore the medieval world and its sustained impact on subsequent culture and thought. It brings together postgraduates and early career researchers from across the United Kingdom and worldwide.

This conference is unique not only because it welcomes research from a multitude of medieval studies’ disciplines, but also because of its interest in the sustained fascination with and impact of the Middle Ages in later centuries.

Medievalism Transformed 2020 explores all historical and literary ideas relating to the theme of movement in the medieval world, from re-readings of the Arthurian legend through time — Geoffrey of Monmouth, Sir Thomas Malory, Tolkien, and Game of Thrones — to movement within the texts themselves — History of Emotions, bildungsroman, and travel narratives. How are texts re-invented across time? What role do texts play as cultural objects in their historical moment and beyond? How does a text engage with moving times, cultures, and space.


Twitter: @BangorMTC2020

Facebook: Bangor English Medievalism Transformed 2020






 CALL FOR PAPERS

"Movement through Arthurian Legend"

Medievalism Transformed 2020 explores all historical and literary ideas relating to the theme of movement in the medieval world. How are texts re-invented across time? What role do texts play as cultural objects in their historical moment and beyond? How does a text engage with moving times, cultures, and space?

We invite papers relating to movement through Arthurian legend crossing all periods, borders, and historical and literary disciplines including but not limited to:

  • Travel, migration, and pilgrimage
  • Familial bonding
  • Life and death
  • Dreams versus reality
  • History of Emotions
  • Translation between languages and mediums (ekphrasis, illustration, music)
  • Movement of ideas through time, place, and space
  • Re-readings of the Arthurian legend through time

We welcome individual proposals for twenty-minute papers (max. 200 words). We also encourage three-person panel proposals (max. 300 words). Submissions should include a title as well as five keywords. Please send all submissions (as PDF attachments) to medievalismtransformed@bangor.ac.uk.

We welcome applications from graduate students at any university.



Proposals due 1 April 2020

Follow us on Twitter @BangorMTC2020 and like our Facebook page “Bangor English Medievalism Transformed 2020”.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

NeMLA Updates 3/4

Two quick updates on our NeMLA sessions.

First, Tammy Rose has had to withdraw from Afterlives of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

Also, the panel number and room has changed from the schedule I was working off originally.  The new information is as follows:

17.34 Does the Matter of Britain (Still) Matter? (Roundtable)
Chair: Christopher Berard, Providence College
Location: Massachusetts (Media Equipped)


Sunday, March 1, 2020

Session Details Does the Matter of Britain (Still) Matter? (Roundtable)

Here are the full details on the Does the Matter of Britain (Still) Matter? (Roundtable) session later this week at NeMLA:



Northeast Modern Language Association 51st Annual Convention, 5-8 March 2020
Marriott Copley Place, Boston, Massachusetts

Saturday, Mar 7, Track 17, 03:15-04:30        
Location: HARVARD (Media Equipped)
17.19 Does the Matter of Britain (Still) Matter? (Roundtable)
Sponsored by the Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Matter of Britain
Organized by Michael A. Torregrossa, Independent Scholar

Chair: Christopher Berard, Providence College
Cultural Studies and Media Studies & British

"The Figure of King Arthur in the 21st Century" Christopher Berard, Providence College

Samuel Johnson, in his Lives of the Poets (1779–81) bemoans “the common fate of mythological stories”. Johnson writes:

We have been too early acquainted with the poetical heroes, to expect any pleasure from their revival; to show them as they have already been shown, is to disgust by repetition; to give them new qualities, or new adventures, is to offend by violating received notions.

Johnson’s remarks regarding the limited adaptability of mythological figures were once applicable to the figure of King Arthur and the Matter of Britain, but not anymore. There has not been a prominent feature film or television adaptation of the “canonical” legend of Arthur (i.e. based off of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae (1137) or Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur (1470) since Jerry Zucker's First Knight (1995). The “canonical” Arthur is fading out of popular consciousness.  A new Arthurian film faithful to the narratives of Geoffrey of Monmouth or Sir Thomas Malory would not “disgust by repetition”. Why have we not seen one?  My presentation will point to some political, social, ethnic, ethical and religious dimensions of the “canonical” figure that are out of step with today's mainstream popular culture. I will tentatively suggest that King Arthur, if recollected at all, has come to be understood as emblematic of the patriarchy, classism, and Western imperialism.

Dr. Christopher Michael Berard completed his Ph.D. in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto's Centre for Medieval Studies. He researches the use of literature as a model for imitation and emulation by historical figures, past and present. More specifically, Dr. Berard analyzes how post-Conquest kings of England have emulated and otherwise used the legendary King Arthur of Britain for political gain, and how this activity has in turn impacted depictions of Arthur in literature. He is the author of a monograph on this topic, Arthurianism in Early Plantagenet England: From Henry II to Edward I, and it is the latest volume in the Arthurian Studies book series published by Boydell Press.


"Is There a Place for the Matter of Britain in Contemporary Arthurian Narrative?" Rachael Warmington, Seton Hall University

Arthurian Legend has persisted and appealed to many cultures because the mythic patterns, motifs and supernatural elements within the narrative are relatable and, more importantly, malleable. Consequently, this has made it possible for each culture and generation to add, remove and alter aspects of the canon to produce oral and written literature as well as film and television adaptations and appropriations that reinforce or reject dominant ideologies, support or critique governing power systems and comment on social anxieties or conflicts that are relevant to each time period and region. Often the Matter of Britain is not focused on in contemporary adaptations and appropriations of Arthurian Legend.. To explore why the Matter of Britain is often obscured or absent in adaptations and appropriations of Arthurian Legend, I consider the importance of adaptation in terms of a diachronic reading, examining the lineage of Arthurian variants both regionally and chronologically because there are several regional and generational deviations that influence contemporary adaptations and appropriations of the Arthurian Legend. These regional and generational patterns dictate the additions to and exclusions in the numerous variants of Arthurian legend in contemporary literature, film and television.

Rachael Warmington is a full-time instructor at Seton Hall University. She earned her B.A. in English from Montclair State University, M.A. in English from Seton Hall University, her MFA at CUNY City College and she is a doctoral candidate at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Rachael is also the editor-in-chief of the open access academic journal, Wachung Review.  She is currently writing her dissertation which focuses on themes of Arthurian Legend in medieval texts and in contemporary literature, film and television adaptations and appropriations and how these themes create the space that challenges oppression in its various forms, but have also been used to perpetuate racism, sexism and religious intolerance.


[WITHDRAWN] "Death Redeems Us Not from Tongues: Thomas Hughes and the 16th-century Crisis of Arthurian History" Liam Thomas Daley, University of Maryland College Park


"From Round Table Tournaments to Renaissance Festivals: Arthuriana and the Hyperreal" Theresa FitzPatrick, Concordia University Saint Paul

Beginning in the thirteenth century, less than fifty years after the first mention of a “round table” in Wace’s Brut, Round Table Tournaments became popular pastimes for wealthy European aristocrats. Here, according to Norris J. Lacy and Geoffrey Ashe, “Arthurian devotees dressed in the appropriate costume to join in feasts, jousts, and dancing in imitation of the King and his knights. In some cases, the participants assumed the names and arms of Arthur’s knights, and more elaborate Round Tables might even include a real castle built for the occasion.” The Winchester Round Table was believed to be commissioned for just such a tournament, possibly during the reign of Edward III, himself an Arthurian enthusiast. In 1522, in a powerful example of sign and simulation, Henry VIII had it repainted with a Tudor rose in its center and his own likeness where Arthur’s should be. Even actual kings had to, in one way or another, measure up to the idea of Arthur, and the implication of assuming his place on the table was clear to anyone who saw it. The story, the image leads the un-real to define the real.

We often base our beliefs not on history, but on story: the Arthurian ideal becomes an otherworldly mirror for us to hold up our lives to and take stock—and it has always been so. Leaders are corrupt and greedy, but Arthur was a fair and honest king under whose rule the land and people flourished. War, poverty, and intolerance run rampant, but Arthur gave every knight an equal voice in decision-making and every citizen a champion to fight for them. Evil was easy to detect, and the valiant and brave were rewarded with favor. The fact that this was never the case—that Arthur’s realm is just as fictional as Narnia or Middle Earth—doesn’t stop us from using it as a template for societal success. Or, just as meaningfully, as an inspiration for cosplay. 

Dr. Theresa FitzPatrick is an Assistant Professor of English at Concordia University, St. Paul where she has taught for the last ten years. Her research interests include Arthurian literature and legend, medieval otherworlds, postmodern theory, and the Baudrillardian hyperreal. More broadly, however, she spends most of her time structuring lessons that will broaden the appeal of literature studies, connecting its importance to students of all backgrounds, not just the academically elite. 


"'And What Everybody Else Needs, Too': Seeking the Grail in The Unwritten" Emily Race, Sewanee: The University of the South

In her exhaustive introduction to The Grail: A Casebook, Arthurian scholar Dhira B. Mahoney describes the Holy Grail as “a standard symbol in the English language for an object of search far-off, mysterious, out of reach” (1). This symbolic property has eclipsed both the object itself as well as the specific narratives that built the mythos. As an archetype, the Holy Grail implicitly includes the ideas of seeking, worthiness, and near-impossible tasks. In the comic book The Unwritten, written by Mike Carey and drawn by Peter Gross from 2009-2015, the plot’s endgame heavily references the Grail stories precisely because of the symbolic narrative inseparable from it. Protagonist Tom clambers directly into Arthurian literature to find what he needs, since the Grail Quest narrative provides him a story pattern he can use: a quest for a powerful object, difficult to obtain, that will fulfill the questers’ needs if all prerequisites are met. Through The Unwritten, Carey and Gross show the continued relevance and fascination with Arthurian motifs, as Tom becomes both Fisher King and Perceval, both Lancelot and Galahad. This paper will explore why the Grail becomes the crucial symbol in this rich text, based on its significance in cultural imagination. 

Since receiving her BA in Secondary Language Arts Education in 2007 from Anderson University, Emily Race has taught high school English classes in Indiana. In efforts to keep her scholarly skills sharp, she has presented papers as an independent scholar at conferences such as Catwoman to Katniss: Villainesses and Heroines of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Midwest Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association Conference. In 2016, Emily started an MA program in American and British Literature at University of the South (known colloquially as Sewanee). Having finished her courses over subsequent summers, she is now preparing to write her thesis on a Reader Response analysis of Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s The Unwritten, examining the agency of the reader and story logic in a world where narrative has very real power, and characters have very little.


Session Details: Afterlives of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Here are the full details of the Afterlives of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court session for NeMLA later this week:



Northeast Modern Language Association 51st Annual Convention, 5-8 March 2020
Marriott Copley Place, Boston, Massachusetts

Friday, Mar 6  Track 8, 11:45-01:00  
Location: FAIRFIELD (Media Equipped)
8.10 Afterlives of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Sponsored by the Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Matter of Britain
Organized by Michael A. Torregrossa, Independent Scholar

Chair: Michael Torregrossa, Independent Scholar
American & Cultural Studies and Media Studies

"Sir Boss, His Successors, and His Surrogates: Classifying Adaptations of Connecticut Yankee" Michael Torregrossa, Independent Scholar

Writer Mark Twain and illustrator Daniel Carter Beard’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) has had a long history of adaptation in popular culture, but the full scope of its reception remains untold. There are, of course, the obvious texts, both in print and on film, that merely retell the story. Along with retellings, there are also a small number of works that continue Connecticut Yankee. These appear entirely unknown to Twainians but offer a unique approach to the author’s legacy. More importantly, Connecticut Yankee itself or its story as mediated through one of its many retellings has also stimulated new narratives detached from Twain and Beard’s telling that recast characters and restage events. Also relatively unknown by scholars of the novel, these materials can be found throughout modern popular culture, and, although Elizabeth S. Sklar somewhat derisibly labels these as “spinoffs and ripoffs” of the novel, they are of value (as she suggests) and perhaps more so than the retellings because such items serve as the base for an extensive corpus of transformations of the novel that send various protagonists, all characters more familiar to contemporary readers and viewers than Twain’s Hank Morgan, into the medieval past and set a common pattern for time travel stories. Serving as an introduction to the themes of this session, the goal of this presentation will be to offer a broad view of adaptations of the Connecticut Yankee story to situate both retellings and the lesser known and/or hitherto unknown continuations and recastings into a new continuum to offer a more complete picture of the novel’s effect on popular culture and provide fresh insight into the various ways that the producers responsible for these re-imaginings have appropriated the story and its time-travel motif for their own purposes.

Michael A. Torregrossa is a graduate of the Medieval Studies program at the University of Connecticut (Storrs) and works as an adjunct instructor in English in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts. His research interests include adaptation, Arthuriana, Beowulfiana, comics and comic art, Frankensteiniana, medievalism, monsters, science fiction, and wizards. Michael has presented papers on these topics at regional, national, and international conferences, and his work has been published in Adapting the Arthurian Legends for Children: Essays on Arthurian Juvenilia, Arthuriana, The Arthuriana / Camelot Project Bibliographies, Cinema Arthuriana: Twenty Essays, Film & History, The 1999 Film & History CD-ROM Annual, The Medieval Hero on Screen: Representations from Beowulf to Buffy, and the three most recent supplements to The Arthurian Encyclopedia. In addition, Michael is founder of The Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Matter of Britain, The Association for the Advancement of Scholarship and Teaching of the Medieval in Popular Culture (successor to The Virtual Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages), and The Northeast Alliance for Scholarship on the Fantastic; he also serves as editor for these organizations’ various blogs and moderator of their discussion lists. Besides these activities, Michael is also active in the Northeast Popular Culture/American Culture Association and organizes sessions for their annual conference in the fall. Michael is currently Monsters and the Monstrous Area Chair for NEPCA, but he previously served as its Fantastic (Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror) Area Chair, a position he held from 2009-2018.


" ‘Thou Swell’: The Power of Words (and Music) as a Connecticut Yankee goes Back to the Future" Tammy Rose, Independent Scholar

Both the Broadway Connecticut Yankee (1927) and the Back to the Future series (i.e. BTTF, 1985-1989) contain similar time travel elements: an outsider with certain knowledge (read: power) travels in time ostensibly with the ability to bring the benefits of modern society to the impoverished peoples of the past.
In both of these variations on Twain’s work, it is music that delivers most cleverly on this meta-message. Including double edged musical choices has the same strong sensory effect as a weighted suit of armour. 
‘Thou Swell’ is a Rodgers and Hart song featured in their 1927 Broadway version of  A Connecticut Yankee. A version of Ye Olde English mixes with modern slang- one of few songs which include the word “lollapalooza”- a clever trick of anachronism created by Hart. Rodgers uses the shorthand of ragtime and unusual rhythm to ground the music in a particular era. 
The song is a trick of time travel itself, appearing Zelig-like every few years with new famous friends including Bing Crosby, June Allyson and Boris Karloff.. It is even heard in All About Eve (1950) as the characters fasten their seat belts for a bumpy night. 
In BTTF, music is also juxtaposed to reinforce the time periods.  Marty McFly delivers musical messages from the future; he can play like Jimi Hendrix and really show the people what an electric guitar can do.  In fact, BTTF III has an oblique reference to Clara Clemens. The meet-cute of the characters Clara Clayton and Doc directly mirrors a runaway sleigh event experienced by Clara and her soon-to-be-husband Ossip Gabrilowitsch. 
Twain juxtaposes 2 specific times and places to tell his story of time travel; subsequent variations of the plot echo his attention to detail, especially in one of the most powerful modes a storyteller can use; sound.

Tammy Rose is an award winning playwright, writer and performer and has been creating theater for the past 20 years. Out of her 10 plays total, 5 have focused on giving voice to 19th Century Authors, primarily the Transcendentalists and also Mark Twain. Her history plays are based on intense research, and utilize source quotes from primary sources, to bring literature into modern conversation. Her most recent play, Thoreau/Twain: Brothers on the River was performed for The Thoreau Society Annual Gathering in Concord, Massachusetts, the Samuel Clemens Conference in Hannibal, Missouri and several other venues. Ms. Rose is the 2020 Playwright in Residence for the Thoreau Farm and Birthplace. Her Antislavery Play will premiere there on July 12th, Thoreau's birthday.

"A Secret Agent in King Arthur's Court: MacGyver Saves the 7th Century from Nuclear Proliferation" Emily Race, Sewanee: The University of the South

In 1991, the final season of MacGyver featured a two-episode special called “Good Knight MacGyver” in which our eponymous hero is struck by a falling window box and wakes up in King Arthur’s court. He must dodge treason plots, solve assassination attempts, and finally confront the villanous Queen Morgana, who has discovered gunpowder. Obvious nods to Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court include a lasso joust and an unintended rivalry with Merlin. However, as a folksy hero who has been fighting the Cold War villains for half a decade, MacGyver takes a different tack than does Hank Morgan. Whereas Morgan amasses an amory and destroys not only his enemies but his allies in an orgy of death at the end of the novel, MacGyver protects seventh-century England from Morgana’s new terrifying discovery of gunpowder. 
Echoing fears of nuclear proliferation and the hopes of the Threshold Test Ban Treaty and Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, this two-part episode shows a benevolent, wiser head prevailing against the heady power of mass destruction, an American hero saving a European country from its bordering enemy and preventing the widespread destruction of firearm proliferation. This paper will explore how the framework of a tentative end to the Cold War shifts the Connecticut Yankee stand-in social commentary to 1990s foreign policy and nuclear proliferation, ending with a hopeful victory as the enemy destroys herself and her dangerous knowledge with the help of MacGyver’s sense of justice and folksy American know-how. 

Since receiving her BA in Secondary Language Arts Education in 2007 from Anderson University, Emily Race has taught high school English classes in Indiana. In efforts to keep her scholarly skills sharp, she has presented papers as an independent scholar at conferences such as Catwoman to Katniss: Villainesses and Heroines of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Midwest Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association Conference. In 2016, Emily started an MA program in American and British Literature at University of the South (known colloquially as Sewanee). Having finished her courses over subsequent summers, she is now preparing to write her thesis on a Reader Response analysis of Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s The Unwritten, examining the agency of the reader and story logic in a world where narrative has very real power, and characters have very little.