Painting: Edmund Blair Leighton, 'Godspeed'


English 555/755-01 Topics

Arthurian Literature

Course Syllabus


Spring Semester 2012
MWF 11:00 - 11:50, Grubbs 312
Pittsburg State University
Instructor:  Dr. K. Nichols

Course Description

This course will investigate Arthurian literature and its adaptability to the changing values and revisionist viewpoints of different eras (Celtic, Medieval, Victorian, Modern). We will explore themes such as chivalry, courtly love, and the grail quest, as well as the tensions between the secular and the religious, between Celtic and Christian mythologies, and between competing loyalties and the imperatives of desire in politics and gender relationships. The readings should be enjoyable but might be rather heavy at times, so make plans accordingly. Some attention will also be paid to Arthurian art and film.

This course is offered for both undergraduate and graduate credit, and the delivery method is face-to-face.


  • Davies, ed., The Mabinogion, 7th edition (Oxford UP, ISBN: 9780199218783)
  • Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances, revised edition (Tuttle, ISBN: 9780460873895)
  • Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur: The Winchester Manuscript, edited and abridged by Helen Cooper (Oxford UP, ISBN: 9780199537341)
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King (Penguin, USA, ISBN: 9780451528759)
  • Joseph Bédier, The Romance of Tristan and Iseult (Random, ISBN: 9780679750161)
  • Gardner Dozois and Sheila Williams, eds., Isaac Asimov’s Camelot (Ace, ISBN: 978-0441005277)--get a copy from your instructor.

This list will be supplemented by several hand-outs or online copies of some shorter texts, as noted on the Daily Reading Schedule.


  • Three take-home essay exams (undergraduates: 20% each; grad. students: 15% each)
  • Context Report, written and oral (undergraduates: 10%; grad. students: 5%). See directions here.
  • Artwork Report (undergraduates: 10%; grad. students: 5%). See directions here.
  • Literary Analysis (undergraduates: 20%; grad. students: 15%). See Lit. analysis paper directions.
  • Extra Grad. Paper (grad. students only: 30%). See Grad. paper directions.

NOTE: All major assignments must be completed to pass the course.

Extra Credit:

You can earn a half-letter grade credit (added on to your final grade) by watching four of the following Arthurian movies and writing a short report on each one: Jerry Zucker's First Knight (1997); Terry Gilliam's Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975); or John Boorman's Excalibur (1981), if you have never seen any of those three before. Otherwise, or alternately, view one or more of these four: Uli Edel's The Mists of Avalon (2001); Robert Bresson's Lancelot du Lac (1974); Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur (2004); and/or Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King (1991), all available in our departmental video collection (the departmental secretary will check the video out to you) or your nearest rental store. Use this online Cultural Event Report Form for each report.


Regular attendance is required. Everyone has four pre-excused absences for those difficult times in life that interfere with class attendance, so you do not need to clear absences with me. However, it is a good idea to check with me (or a classmate) to make sure an assignment was not changed while you were gone.

Students who miss more than four classes may be dropped from the roster for "excessive absences."

Late Paper/Exams Policy:

Late papers and exams will be graded down one letter grade for each day they are late.

Oral presentations must be given on the assigned day unless you get special permission from me to change the day.

NOTE: If you live out-of-town, you may e-mail papers to me at,
but make sure they are attached as a .doc file or a .rtf file.

Plagiarism Policy:

Academic honesty is expected of all students. I support the stated policies of the University and the English Department on penalties for plagiarism. Cheating or passing off anyone else's work (whether your roommate's or a published article) as your own may result in an "F" for that paper or an "F" for the course. (See the PSU Academic Honesty and Misconduct policy.)

Since most students are here to learn, I am happy to help anyone who is wants to learn how to avoid plagiarism. Here are a few basic rules for avoiding plagiarism.

Class Web Pages:

The class syllabus and research/writing assignments can be accessed online in the following ways:

The assumption is that the internet assignments will be done in the Computer Lab downstairs in Grubbs Hall 101 or elsewhere on campus, although you can probably do some of the assignments on your personal computer if you wish.

Office Hours:

Office: Grubbs Hall 450

Office Hours: MWF 12:00-12:50; 2:00-2:50; or by appointment.

PSU Syllabus Supplement Spring 2012

This link--Syllabus Supplement Spring 2012-- will take you to a "one-stop place for students" to access up-to-date information about severe weather policies, financial assistance, important dates, dropping a course, class attendance, computer technology assistance, learning disabilities, PSU's non-discrimination policy, PSU's academic integrity policy, and other related items PSU students need to know. This student resource is approved by the Faculty Senate. Feel free to browse and keep yourself informed.

  • Go to 'Syllabus.'
  • E-mail your instructor.
  • Go to 'Reading Schedule.'

Return to Nichols Home page


Painting top of page:
"Godspeed" by Edmund Blair Leighton

Background images by Devonshire Designs