Arthur (was Re: Help wanted: arthurian novels)

Robyn Starkey rohina at
Mon Sep 29 20:41:36 EDT 2003

>I'm afraid I don't quite follow the logic of your argument here: you seem
>to be saying that if a book mentions a previous book, this precludes any
>other source for the story in the original book to which the second refers,
>and that seems to me to be a non-sequiter.

No, the thing I find noteworthy is that the poems are consciously 
bookish.  There are lots of examples of poems which refer back to folktale 
or oral origins, rather than other written retellings. They seem to be 
deliberately rejecting an oral history (if there is one, and regardless of 
whether it influenced their sources). It's not that they don't take note of 
ancient history, either. The beginning of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 
for example, talks about the legends of the Romans.

>Surely it would be a great deal
>more remarkable if someone writing three hundred years after Chretien de
>Troyes' work, and who made a point as Malory did of begging his jailors to
>allow him every book they could find about anything connected to Arthur so
>that he could gather the whole lot together and make a coherent story out
>of it, did *not* mention that his story had good precedent in earlier
>written works?

The point about Malory is that if you read it closely, the parts where he 
says "as the book sayth" are nearly always the parts he made up himself. He 
isn't documenting his sources like a good 3rd year student writing an 
essay. He is saying, obliquely, something about bookishness and authority. 
He *could* have made mention to some old song (equally spurious) as his 
authority, but he doesn't. He says "book".

>Similarly, Dante was being moral about the bad influence of
>written work that didn't condemn adultery: obviously he would give an
>example of a written work!

So, what was your point about Arthurian orality? Dante picked a famous 
book, and that was a story about Lancelot.

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