Medieval Literature: Legends of Arthur

Color illustration of King Arthur finding a giant roasting a pig that was drawn in the margins of the text, Roman de Brut, by Wace.

Drawing of King Arthur finding a giant roasting a pig. (Illustration is in the public domain from Roman de Brut by Wace, 2nd quarter of the 14th century. Courtesy of the British Library.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Fall 2013



Cite This Course

Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

As a quasi-historical, quasi-legendary figure of consistently great popularity, King Arthur has been subject to an extraordinary amount of reinvention and rewriting: as a Christian hero and war-leader; as an ineffective king and pathetic cuckold; and as a tragic figure of noble but doomed intentions. As we trace Arthur's evolution and that of principal knights, we will ask what underlies the appeal of this figure whose consistent reappearance in western culture has performed the medieval prophecy that he would be rex quondam et futurus: the once and future king.

Related Content

Arthur Bahr. 21L.460 Medieval Literature: Legends of Arthur. Fall 2013. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

For more information about using these materials and the Creative Commons license, see our Terms of Use.