Introduction

By Lupack, Alan | Arthuriana, July 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Introduction


Lupack, Alan, Arthuriana


The five essays that comprise this special issue of Arthuriana demonstrate how fruitful the examination of Victorian culture can be to the study of the Arthurian Revival in the nineteenth century. These essays draw on a variety of sources, some of which are well known, but many of which have been little studied. Yet all of these sources reveal how deeply the Arthurian legend penetrated and influenced the culture of the Victorian age.

In her essay '"Recalled to Life": King Arthur's Return and the Body of the Past in Nineteenth-Century England,' Megan L. Morris has, for example, found a wide range of texts-reviews, articles, poetry, and prose fiction-that show a Victorian concern with the legend of Arthur's survival and return. Morris sees in this preoccupation with Arthur's body 'a corporeally-centered aesthetic of history' and also a desire to restore vitality to contemporary Victorian masculinity by creating 'a strong, manly modern body.' A complementary 'bodying forth' of the past in the present is treated in Inga Bryden's essay 'All Dressed Up: Revivalism and the Fashion for Arthur in Victorian Culture.' Bryden explores the 'revival of historical dress in the context of the Victorian medieval revival.' Using fashion theory and criticism as her guiding principle, she examines selected texts, works of art, and events (such as the Eglinton Tournament) to demonstrate that fashion, in particular the revival of the fashion of an earlier age, is another type of the 'materialization of history.'

Roger Simpson's 'Sacred Relics: Travelers and the Holy Grail' surveys another fascinating body of texts. His examination of a large number of Victorian travel books reveals that Victorian travelers might have visited places such as Genoa, Mantua, or Valencia expecting to see the Grail. But Simpson's exhaustive analysis of travel literature and other texts demonstrates that because of 'fears of an encroaching Roman Catholicism' (the same fear that led Tennyson to offer such an ambiguous picture of the Grail in his 'Holy Grail' idyll), literary texts abandoned treatment of the Grail as historical artifact and 'reverted to an allegorical mode.'

Stephen Knight, in his study of 'The Arctic Arthur,' looks at another type of travel, Arthur's northern adventures in literary texts. …

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