Thursday, February 6, 2014

[Review] The Cambridge Companion To The Arthurian Legend Edited by Elizabeth Archibald and Ad Putter

Title: The Cambridge Companion To The Arthurian Legend
Edited: Elizabeth Archibald and Ad Putter
Publisher: Cambridge University Press October 2009
Genre: Non-fiction, Arthurian Legend, King Arthur, British literature, Academic
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 286
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Free copy from Cambridge University Press for the purpose of review.
Illustration from a 15th Century French Manuscript.
Was King Arthur a real person? Maybe he was based loosely on a historical figure from the past?
In The Cambridge Companion To The Arthurian Legend, the editors do not seek to find the real Arthur, because they feel he is an enigma. Many historians and researchers have thought they'd found clues as to who he was and what exact time period he lived in; nevertheless, nothing concrete has been found.
The editors of Archibald and Putter state the goal of this book:
"Our aim is to strike a balance between the descriptive and the analytic, so this companion is divided into two parts. The chronological section shows how the legend evolved from the shadowy Welsh tradition through medieval chronicle and romance and post-medieval skepticism to modern novels, cartoons and films. Here we have concentrated on the Anglophone versions for the post-medieval period. In the thematic section we have chosen themes which seem to us to the key to understanding Arthurian literature; all essays in this section deal with both medieval and post-medieval material, though the main focus is medieval." Page 3.
The Cambridge Companion To The Arthurian Legend, is an academic study of King Arthur, both in medieval history and through to the twenty-first century. Arthur legends appeared in France, Germany, Wales, Greece, and Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
The focus of this book will be on "English traditions."
Illustration by Gustave Dore's.

Tristan and Iseult with the Potion. Painting by John William Waterhouse
Pros:
1. I'm a beginner in the study of King Arthur and I learned so much in this book. For example, I did not know Arthurian legends were in other countries. I've heard of Tristan and Iseult and Lancelot (which I presumed was French.) I've not read Mark Twain's satire on King Arthur. 
2. I enjoyed reading about the psychology and or dynamics of Lancelot and Guinevere's affair.
3. How religion affected King Arthur stories.
4. Was introduced to early authors of King Arthur and their contributions, for example:
Geoffrey of Monmouth and Sir Thomas Malory
5. The re-establishment of King Arthur during Victorian era through Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
6. The quest of the Holy Grail.
7. How King Arthur transformed through the centuries.
8. "Ethics" and morality of King Arthur and his knights.

Cons:
1. I loved this book, but I'm interested in this subject and felt drawn to it from the beginning. I believe a person of keen interest in the subject would be most interested.
2. A few times during the later half of book it became dry; but I persevered.

This is the second book for the Arthurian Lit Reading Challenge 2014. I'd pledged to read two, but have plans to read more. 


4 comments:

  1. May I ask where you applied for free review copy? I'd really like to read it too after your review! It seems to be a great choice for Arthurian challenge!

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  2. I went to the website, looked for publicity, and sent an email. It is important for you to have a blog and other social media in order to write a review.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Annette! I'll definitely try! :)

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    2. I love Arthurian legend. I have this book. Thanks for writing about it.

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