King Arthur as Transcendent Rhetoric of Anxiety: Examining Arthurian Legends as Sociopolitical Paratexts

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


Department of English


Advisor: Miriamne Krummel


As a recurring figure representative of the institution of kingship, King Arthur presents a unique rhetorical opportunity to examine sociopolitical anxieties of the Middle Ages. Because of his unique position, I propose Arthur himself is a text to be analyzed. With Arthur established as a text, specifically one of rhetorical significance, I analyze his subsequent iterations (historical and literary) as paratexts. Traditionally, paratextual analysis has involved an investigation of the literal and physical artifacts surrounding a text; however, by examining Arthur-the-figure as a text, I apply paratextual analysis theoretically. Rather than examining book bindings or author's notes, I argue Arthur's paratexts involve genre and the sociopolitical rhetoric of his authors. Through this method, I argue that Arthur is a transcendent text onto which sociopolitical anxieties are imposed, making him more than a literary figure but rather a rhetorical device of cultural memory and anxiety, particularly an anxiety of belonging. The works of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Geoffrey Chaucer, Marie de France, and Sir Thomas Malory afford both an illustration of Arthur's transcendent temporality and insights into attempts at self-actualization. Reading Arthur-the-figure as a text provides not only significant opportunities to recover marginalized narratives of medieval England, but also insight into present sociopolitical anxieties.


Medieval Literature, Medieval History, British and Irish Literature, Folklore, Gender, Literature, Middle Ages, Rhetoric, medieval literature, geoffrey chaucer, king arthur, arthurian literature, geoffrey of monmouth, marie de france, thomas malory, le morte darthur, paratextual analysis, rhetorical analysis, social anxieties, self-actualization

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Copyright © 2018, author