The King Arthur Myth in Modern American Literature


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About the Book

In American fiction, two forms of the Arthurian myth are commonly found: the use of the myth for political reasons, and the use of the myth for the continuation of an aesthetic tradition that can be traced back to the earliest use of the Arthurian cycle by writers in the British Isles. This work traces the use of the legend from Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to Donald Barthelme’s novel The King. It discusses how Twain used the myth to take a stand against England, how it served cultural and aesthetic purposes in John Steinbeck’s writing, how Raymond Chandler used it in complex texts with less obvious Arthurian allusions that carried strong cultural and even political associations, how John Gardner used aspects of the myth to embellish already existing narrative structures and to underscore philosophic debates, and how Donald Barthelme suggests the continuing interest of American writers in the Arthurian legend today in his novels. Also discussed is the effect of World War II on American literature and the Arthurian myth and the Camelot image surrounding the Kennedys.

About the Author(s)

Andrew E. Mathis currently teaches English at Temple University. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Bibliographic Details

Andrew E. Mathis
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 168
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2002
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1171-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     vii

Introduction     1

1 Mark Twain     7

2 Steinbeck’s Early Novels     25

3 Raymond Chandler     43

4 Writers in World War     II60

5 Steinbeck’s Later Works     78

6 John Gardner     106

7 Donald Barthelme, et al.     122

Conclusion     139

Bibliography     145

Index     153

Book Reviews & Awards

“analysis of Steinbeck’s use of myth is especially rewarding…a readily accessible discussion of the American need for a mythical heritage…useful bibliography and index…will interest both medievalists and students of American literature”—Choice; “approach has merit…it reminds Arthurian scholars of contemporary events that may have influenced the authors…some interesting information here”—Arthuriana; “offers a comprehensive analysis of American literature’s fascination with the Arthurian legend…accessible…well-researched and annotated”—Catholic Library World.