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'Of his breast noble poets shall eat; of his blood shall men be drunk': nationalism, literature, and Arthurian 'things' in medieval and Early Modern Britain

Thesis

<http://hdl.handle.net/2142/88168>
KeywordsTriple Keywords
Literature
World literature
Western literature (Western countries)
Belles-lettres
Identity, National
Nationalism
National consciousness
Consciousness, National
National identity
Materialism
Physicalism
Ontology
Being
Annals
History
Standard of value
Value
Worth
Values
Axiology
Maps
Plans
Political power
Empowerment (Social sciences)
Power (Social sciences)
Science, Political
Government
Politics
Political science
Political theory
Administration
Commonwealth, The
Civil government
Political thought
Mass political behavior
Practical politics
Political behavior
Electoral politics
Politics, Practical
Truth
Conviction

Abstract

My dissertation examines the intersection of medieval and Early Modern Arthurian literature, English and British nationalism, and new materialism – specifically thing theory and object-oriented ontology. Arthur was not a true historical figure, yet throughout much of British history his cultural and propagandist value has been immeasurable both to the ruling class and those who would rebel against it. The end result is that Arthurian objects such as his alleged body, the Round Table, and seals and maps were constantly being produced. Because of the doubtful status of such objects, each new era had to come up with a new theoretical lens through which to discuss these ‘things’ in order to have them hold meaning or value in their current cultural climate. Through the course of this dissertation I follow this trend from the twelfth century to the sixteenth century, tracking these material signifiers as they change in dialogue with shifting cultural needs. While the focus on objects remains consistent throughout these eras, the meaning of the Arthurian objects is fluid and multitudinous, as are the types of lenses through which they are discussed. In some cases these objects show the failure of contemporary Britain in comparison to the golden age of Arthur; in other cases these objects demonstrate that the glorious Arthurian past should bolster support for the politics of the present; in others still these objects critique even Arthur himself. In some cases a true belief in a historical Arthur is actually necessary; in other cases he is merely used as a symbol for an emotional or political truth.

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