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HSY3645 - Arthur: History and Myth

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Carol Williams


Caulfield First semester 2007 (Day)
Clayton Second semester 2007 (Day)


This unit examines the debate around whether or not King Arthur actually existed and the ways in which the figure of Arthur became a mythic figure in subsequent centuries. It considers the earliest sources relating to Arthur, in particular Geoffrey of Monmouth in the early 12th century, who constructs a credible narrative from earlier sources and Chretien de Troyes later in the same century, who with considerable literary skill transformed the warrior leader into a chivalric king. This myth-making is explored across the centuries through Malory's Morte d'Arthur and into the literature of the 19th century.


The unit aims to provide students with a thorough knowledge of the debate around Arthur and to use this as the starting point for an examination of the concept of medievalism. At a broader level the unit aims to contrast primary historical documents which provide specific truths with literary historical documents which may provide general truths. In addition, the unit also aims to develop students' skills in both independent research and writing and collaborative research and presentation. Specifically, students successfully completing HSY3645 will be expected to demonstrate:

  1. A thorough knowledge of the debate around whether Arthur is a historical or fictional figure;
  2. A comprehensive understanding of medievalism or the body of beliefs, customs and practices of the Middle Ages as related to this topic;
  3. a critical understanding of the various interpretations that inform the historical and contemporary analysis of the ongoing debate;
  4. a stronger understanding of the relationship between fictional and non-fictional representations of Arthur;
  5. enhanced skills in the critical and analytical reading of a variety of texts, including contemporary critique, historical scholarship and non-fictional and fictional narrative reconstructions, and specifically the development of skills in source criticism, critical reading, the development of research and writing skills, especially organising and defending an argument, and writing with precision and imagination; and
  6. the capacity to work with others in a collaborative research project and presentation.
  7. enhanced skills in the formulation of an independent research project.


Source criticism exercise (500 words) : 10%
Class test (1 hour) : 20%
Report (500 words) : 20%
Research essay (including plan) (2500) : 50%
The research essay is a self-generated, independent research project.

Contact hours

2 one-hour lectures and a one-hour tutorial for 9 weeks and 1 ninety-minute seminar and a one-hour tutorial for 2 weeks


A minor sequence in History or permission