ENGL 459: Modern Arthurian Literature
Fall, 2014
GalahadClass meetings: TR 2-4, Rm. 2-13
Office: 47-35G, tel. 756-2636
Office Hours: M 12:30-1:30 (alternate location TBA); W 4:10-5:00, Th 9:00-11:00, and by appt.
 Woman ScholarDr. Debora B. Schwartz 
Main English Office:  756-2597
e-mail: dschwart@calpoly.edu

Calendar of Assignments
PLEASE NOTE that the on-line syllabus (not any print-out you may make) is authoritative.  Assignments may be modified in the course of the quarter.  Check the on-line syllabus regularly (before each class) to ensure that you are completing the correct assignment.

Oral Presentation Schedule
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MyCalpoly Portal 

Research Aids:  Guided Research Exercises:

Course Description and Objectives:

This READING-INTENSIVE seminar explores how writers and artists in other media have used Arthurian legend to convey different messages and meanings.  We will examine 19th- and 20th-century literary works, paintings and illustrations, films, an opera, and two Broadway musicals as products of their specific historical and cultural contexts and consider how they shed light on the values and goals of the artists which produced them and the audiences which enjoyed them.

Additionally, you will hone the skills necessary to identify, access, and correctly document secondary resources for a literary research project found both at the Kennedy Library and in the collections of other research libraries. 

Finally, I hope that your study of modern Arthuriana will pique your interest in the medieval sources that inspired them -- and that some of you will choose to read more medieval literature, whether on your own or with me in another class!

The Three Queens and the Dying ArthurRequired Textbooks: 
  • T. H. White, The Once and Future King (Berkley Books or U of Texas P; ISBN 9780441627400)
  • T. H. White, The Book of Merlyn (U of Texas P; ISBN 9780292707696)
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Idylls of the King (Penguin Classics; ISBN 9780140422535)
  • John Steinbeck, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (ISBN 9780374523787)
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon (Random House; ISBN 9780345350497)

  • ENGL 459 Homepage: Love and Death: The Tristan Tradition Other required readings will be accessed electronically. "Online readings" are .HTML files accessible through links on this website.  "E-reserves" are .PDF files accessible through Polylearn. Please be sure to bring hard copy of required readings with you to class.
  •  To access Polylearn, log in at MyCalpoly, go to "My Courses" and select ENGL 459-02 from the classes you are taking. Click on the PolyLearn link to download, read and/or print the .PDF files using Acrobat Reader. To access online readings in .html files, click on the link on the Calendar of Assignments.  
Also Recommended:
  • Lacy, Ashe and Mancoff, eds., The Arthurian Handbook, 2nd. ed. (Taylor/Garland, 1997; ISBN 9780815320814)
  • The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, ed. Norris J. Lacy
  • Joseph Gibaldi and Walter S. Achtert, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (most recent edition preferred)
Films: All students are required to screen five Arthurian films and to read assigned critical assessments of these films:
Please note that only clips from the films will be screened in class; you will need to see them on your own prior to the class meeting at which they will be discussed (as assigned on the course calendar).  Copies of all five films are on reserve for ENGL 459 in the Kennedy Library.  See them on your own or by attending a group screening in the Library (details TBA).

We will also discuss two other musical works:  Wagner's Parsifal opera and the Broadway musical Spamalot, adapted from Monty Python's Holy Grail.

The required films are the equivalent of readings and must be viewed prior to the class meeting at which they will be discussed

NOTE 1: Videos and DVDs on reserve do not circulate outside the library; they must be screened in the library during normal library hours.  Group screenings will be scheduled in Kennedy Library and/or at Dr. Schwartz's house (dates and times will be posted on the course calendar), or you may see them on your own time. 
NOTE 2:  You are free to access the films online (e.g. on Hulu or for a fee from Amazon.com), to rent them from Netflix, or to borrow a copy from a library or a local video store.  
NOTE 3:  Only selected scenes from the films will be screened in class; you must arrange to see the full video prior to the class meeting at which it will be discussed.


You are expected to have an email account and to check it regularly.  Important announcements will be posted in PolyLearn and/or sent over the class email alias: engl-459-02-2148@calpoly.edu.  The class email alias is automatically generated using the email address of each enrolled student found in the Cal Poly Directory server. If your Cal Poly email account is NOT your preferred email address, you must

  • Log into http://my.calpoly.edu/ and click on "Grades and Personal Information" (the "Personal Information Channel") to change your Email Delivery Address. Once you have done so, any email sent to your <username@calpoly.edu> , including all postings to the class alias, will be forwarded to the address you have designated.
Remember: you are responsible for any information sent over the class email alias (e.g. changes in assignments; other class-related announcements), so be sure to check your email regularly.  You may also use the alias to send a query or comment to the whole class (including your instructor).  Please do not use the alias for matters unrelated to class.

occasional absences for personal reasons are
                  understandable. . . but not excused!Attendance Policy:  Due to the twice-weekly seminar format, any absence causes you to miss a substantial chunk of material. Regular and punctual attendance is required.  Please note that EVERY absence will affect the participation component of your final course grade.

Each student starts out with a 4.0 for attendance.  This component of your final grade drops by .3 for the first UNEXCUSED absence; the penalty increases by .1 for each subsequent unexcused absence (from A [4.0] to A- [3.7] to B+ [3.3], to B- [2.8], etc.).  Additionally, it drops .1 for the first EXCUSED absence (4.0 to 3.9) and .2 for the second excused absence (3.9 to 3.7).  Excused absences in excess of two (a full week, 10% of the class) count the same as unexcused absences.

Please note that only absences resulting from illness, a family emergency, or circumstances truly beyond your control count as excused.  Absences taken for personal convenience are a matter of choice rather than necessity; they will be recorded as unexcused. Please note that deadlines for other courses, work conflicts and job interviews are NOT valid reasons for missing class.  Exception:  a graduating senior will be granted ONE excused absence for an out-of-town job interview.

FOR ANY ABSENCE TO BE EXCUSED, YOU MUST SUBMIT A SIGNED, WRITTEN NOTE with course number, date missed and an explanation of the circumstances leading to your absence.  (Although I do appreciate your courtesy in letting me know why you have missed a class, an Email or a phone message will not suffice; a written statement with your signature is required for an absence to be excused.)

Participation: in addition to regular class attendance, the participation component of the class grade will reflect two sorts of online participation.

  • You will be assigned to a PolyLearn discussion group of 4-6 students to which you will post short reactions to / reflections on the assigned readings and films.  Each week, you will be expected to post a response of at least one paragraph to at least one assigned reading or film, and to post a thoughtful response of at least one paragraph to at least two of your classmates.  These postings will be graded pass/fail only and will be factored into the participation portion of your final course grade.
  • You are also also expected to collaborate with your classmates by submitting research progress reports and records of works ordered via LINK+ or ILL to the class research archive, located in a PolyLearn "Discussion Board."  There will be separate forums for each author/text. Additionally, there will be an ILL Repository to which you will upload Interlibrary Loan articles you have received electronically Your complete set of Research Progress Reports and your upload(s) to the ILL Repository will factor into the participation component of your final course grade.

William Morris, Guinevere
                  or La Belle Iseult (1858) Readings listed on the Calendar of Assignments are to be completed BEFORE coming to class on the date for which they are assigned.  Readings are found in the required textbooks, as .PDF files on e-reserve in PolyLearn, or as .HTML files accessible through a weblink on the calendar of assignments.  Short background assignments should normally be read first, since they provide a context within which the primary readings will be more meaningful. But when time is short, concentrate on getting through the primary readings which will be the focus of class discussion; you can always make up the background readings later.

Be prepared to discuss readings in class. Note that the length and difficulty of assignments vary, so look ahead in the reading list when you are planning your time. You will be responsible for ALL the assigned readings, whether fully discussed in class or not, as well as for the additional background material presented in lectures, online readings, or in student presentations and in class discussion.

Finally, get started on your research early, even if your presentation date falls towards the end of the quarter.  To get started, come to an Office Hour (or make an appointment to see me) by the end of week 3 at the latest.  Failure to do so will result in an "F" being averaged into the Research Report component of your final course grade.  We will use this initial meeting to brainstorm, to discuss possible topics and approaches, to help you get the hang of some of the library research tools, and/or simply to get acquainted.  After this initial meeting, feel free to come back!  This means: if you feel confused about a research assignment, let me help you troubleshoot!

Graded Work:

Four guided research exercises will help you begin your research for your oral presentation and your final paper.  Research progress reports are posted to a class Research Archive on each author or film to serve as a "roadmap" for anyone who wishes to incorporate the text or film you have researched into their final projects.  Because your RESEARCH PROGRESS REPORTS will be an important resource for your classmates, they factor into your participation grade.
There will also be two collaborative forums: one where you should post a list of items you have ordered through Link+, and an ILL Repository where you will upload Interlibrary Loan articles you have received electronically.  The ILL Repository and the LINK+ Orders forums allow seminar participants to pool their resources and "share the wealth" without recalling each other's books or wasting the library's limited financial resources by placing multiple Interlibrary Loan and Link+ requests for the same items.  Because they are an important resource for your classmates, they factor into your participation grade.

Starting in week two or three, each reading or film will be presented by one or more students (sign-ups the first week of class). This ORAL PRESENTATION (no more than 20 min. per student!) will be the starting point for class discussion, led jointly by presenter(s) and professor. The Oral Presentation should discuss specific textual passages (or scenes in a film) that you find interesting or illuminating.  You may analyze a particular episode, character, theme or motif; discuss the use of imagery, stylistic choices, or structural aspects of the text; or compare one of more of these elements with previous readings.  In all cases, the presentation should be anchored by CLOSE READING of passages from the text. If you choose, you may refer in passing to a secondary source which you have found particularly interesting or useful, but you should NOT do a "book report" on the critics you have found in your research; keep the focus on the primary work (literary text, artwork or film).

Students are encouraged (but not required) to develop the presentation topic more fully in the final research paper. Please note: you are NOT expected to become a world expert on your assigned topic; you are merely responsible for helping to introduce it to your classmates!


On the day of the oral presentation, Presenters will prepare and distribute an ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY of at least five secondary sources dealing with the primary reading/film and/or (for modern works) one or more of its medieval sources. The Annotated Bibliography will be graded for complete and correct bibliographic citations; for the distribution of items over the required types of sources and modes of access; and for the expression and quality of the summary.  Your Oral Presentation and Annotated Bibliography count toward your in-class work grade.

Please note:  you will need to start researching your topic well in advance of your presentation date in order to obtain materials through LINK+ and Interlibrary Loan.  You should meet with Prof. Schwartz (and other presenters on same day, if applicable) no later than the third week of class for some research guidance and to discuss the focus of your presentation (possible topics, approaches, etc.).

MIDTERM EXAM:  a closed book, two-hour exam in class on day 1 of week 8 (M 11/10/14). The exam will consist of some combination of the following: factual questions (from lectures, assigned introductory materials, online readings and handouts, including film criticism); chronology of works studied; identification of key characters, events, objects and motifs; identification of significant and representative passages from readingsD:choice of essay questions. A Scantron may be required for portions of the objective exam.

PAPER PROSPECTUS:  Normally ungraded; to be turned in to me in class on Wednesday 11/5/14 or as an emailed Word attachment by MIDNIGHT on Friday, 11/7/14.   If submitted as an emailed word attachment, please save your document under the filename

Your Prospectus must include a working title which clearly identifies the work(s) discussed as well as topic of your paper; a fully articulated thesis (not just a statement of general topic); a tentative outline of paper; and a working bibliography of at least eight sources (alphabetized and in correct MLA bibliographic citation format).
NOTE: If an acceptable Prospectus is submitted on time, it will be used solely for feedback to help you write a stronger final research paper.  But if no prospectus is submitted or the prospectus does not fulfill the requirements of the assignment, it will be graded and will count for 5% of your final course grade. In that case ONLY, the Research Paper component of your final grade will decrease to 25%.  (Note: failure to submit a prospectus will result in 5% of your final course grade = F.)

Detail, Aubrey Beardsley,
                    How La Beale Isoud Wrote to Sir Tristram (1893)RESEARCH PAPER: 12-15 pp. long, citing at least 6 secondary sources.  Final paper may be connected to oral presentation.  Worth 30% of final course grade (except as noted above). Unless an extension has been arranged in advance, Research Papers (along with the original, marked up prospectus) are due at our final class meeting, W 12/3/14, or if an extension has been arranged in advance, no later than midnight on Sunday, 12/7/14. If submitted as an emailed word attachment, please save your document under the filename "[yourlastname]459paperF14.docx" (or .doc).

FINAL ORAL EXERCISE: In lieu of a traditional final exam, there will be a required final oral exercise: a brief presentation to your classmates of the premise and conclusions of your final research paper.  While the presentation will be ungraded, failure to complete the Final Oral Exercise will result in a grade of "F" being averaged with your Midterm Exam score.   I hope that this final conversation of the quarter can take place in conjunction with a Class Lunch or Dinner at my home, to be scheduled at a mutually convenient time on either the week-end before finals or no later than Wednesday of exam week.  Please note that while it will be graded Pass/Fail, this "final conversation" is a required component of the class.  If we are unable to schedule a class dinner, the final conversation will take place in our usual classroom at the scheduled exam time: 1- 4 PM on Wednesday 12/10.

NOTE:  I do not typically include reading quizzes in my 400-level seminars.  However, should it become apparent that students are not keeping up with assigned readings, I reserve the right to start!  Reading quizzes in my classes typically consist of  a combination of passage IDs; factual questions (based on assigned background readings, as well as character or event IDs); and content-specific questions based upon primary material (readings, films and artwork: significant plot developments, roles played by various characters, etc.)  There is typically an element of choice on my quizzes, and they are typically unannounced.  In the (unlikely) event that reading quizzes prove necessary, they will be incorporated into the in-class work component of your final course grade.


20%  Participation (including attendance, Discussion Board postings, archived research reports, and uploads to the Class ILL Repository); please note that failure to meet with Dr. Schwartz concerning your research topic by the end of week three at the latest will result in an F being averaged into this portion of your class grade!    book illustration Galahad 
20% In-class work: equal weight to Oral Presentation and annotated bibliography.  (Should I determine that reading quizzes are necessary to ensure class members are keeping up with assignments, they will be factored into this portion of the final grade.)
30% Miderm Exam. NOTE: Failure to participate in the final oral exercise will result in an F being averaged with this grade.
30% Research PaperNOTE: If an acceptable Research Paper Prospectus is submitted on time, it will be considered an ungraded exercise designed solely to provide feedback to help you write a stronger final paper.  But if the prospectus submitted does not fulfill the requirements of the assignment, or if it is submitted late, it will be graded and will count for 5% of your final course grade. In that case, the research paper itself will be worth only 25%.  NOTE: Failure to submit a prospectus will result in 5% of your final course grade = F!!

Research Tools:
Schwartz Web pages:
Online Readings:
 Arthurian Resources: