Thursday, August 25, 2016

King Arthur in the 21st Century and Beyond (Notes:28)

Arthur in the modern time.

Over 1500 years after the emergence of the legend, you can find traces of the Arthurian legend from Baghdad to Bangkok while some of the most studious scholars are Japanese. When it comes to North America and Europe, however, the name is ubiquitous and has been highly commoditized.

The Arthurian legend today is much like an empty signifier—it only has value in what we attribute to it. Since this is dependent on the social-materiality of the time, it is unsurprising that what one projects onto the signifier changes with time. So, we see the popularity of the eco-critical approaches in regards to Stonehenge.

Originally coming from Africa before eventually being transferred to Ireland, before its final destination on the Salisbury plains, Geoffrey of Monmouth writes of the monument’s history in his seminal text. The aboriginal British, the society which built the monument thousands of years before the Celts moved into the British Isle proper, and incorporated the stones into their own religion. During the 1920s Stonehenge was incorporated into the Neo-Druid/Pagan movement. Author of the Mists of Avalon, in fact, Marian Zimmer Bradley, featured Stonehenge proudly and many Neo-Pagan groups celebrated her works as an accurate depiction. (Bradley also cofounded the Society for Creative Anachronism). 

The Stonehenge monument, unsurprisingly, is a magnet for attracting all sorts of people. One day, a man christened himself as King Arthur and demanded that the English Heritage Foundation and the British government, end restriction to important historical sites. Somewhat ironically, however, the English Heritage Foundation was originally conceived in order to promote access to historical sites like Tintagdle who, before their intervention, was practically inaccessible to the ordinary person. English Heritage came into existence in 1983 with the intent of protecting important buildings and was partly conceived via the outrage of people living in Tintagdle when a large hotel was built on the Cornish coast which obstructed the important Arthurian site. Of course, the ‘English’ aspect of the foundation is problematic as the dynamics of the Arthurian legend and British territory.


Well, that is it for the King Arthur: History and Legend Great Courses course.  I hope you found these posts enjoyable and learned a thing or two. Feel free to leave some feedback below on how you want me to improve these posts in the future and know that, yes, there will be many more notes int eh future!