Presenter Information

Carling RamsdellFollow

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Laurence Roth

Start Date

28-4-2020 12:00 AM

End Date

28-4-2020 12:00 AM

Description

The first children’s adaptation of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur was written by James Knowles in the mid-19th century. In the 103 years between the publication of Knowles’ The Story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table in 1860 and the release of Disney’s The Sword in the Stone in 1963, the tales in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur were synthesized into a story that primarily focused on teaching moral lessons to readers. Knowles’ work, as well as works written by Sidney Lanier and Howard Pyle, adapted Malory’s stories by removing the sex and violence present in the medieval myths. These adaptations remade Arthurian stories into children’s literature, and, by doing so, drove the Arthurian canon into a creative dead end. During the Victorian and Edwardian eras, authors, publishers, educators, and theorists saw children’s literature as inherently didactic. Lanier’s adaptation, which became the dominant American children’s adaptation, removed the affair between Launcelot and Gwenyver that is prominent in Le Morte d’Arthur. Pyle, perhaps inspired in part by Knowles and Lanier before him, painted Arthur and his knights as romanticized models of gentlemanly behavior. Arthur was thereby turned from a morally gray cuckold into a simple exemplar of chivalry. Arthurian tales are and continue to be shared with audiences of all ages, but these 19th and early 20th adaptations constricted medieval Arthurian myths into a children’s canon of formulaic moral stories that ultimately limited its readership and creative innovations.

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Apr 28th, 12:00 AM Apr 28th, 12:00 AM

The Formation of the Arthurian Children's Canon

The first children’s adaptation of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur was written by James Knowles in the mid-19th century. In the 103 years between the publication of Knowles’ The Story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table in 1860 and the release of Disney’s The Sword in the Stone in 1963, the tales in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur were synthesized into a story that primarily focused on teaching moral lessons to readers. Knowles’ work, as well as works written by Sidney Lanier and Howard Pyle, adapted Malory’s stories by removing the sex and violence present in the medieval myths. These adaptations remade Arthurian stories into children’s literature, and, by doing so, drove the Arthurian canon into a creative dead end. During the Victorian and Edwardian eras, authors, publishers, educators, and theorists saw children’s literature as inherently didactic. Lanier’s adaptation, which became the dominant American children’s adaptation, removed the affair between Launcelot and Gwenyver that is prominent in Le Morte d’Arthur. Pyle, perhaps inspired in part by Knowles and Lanier before him, painted Arthur and his knights as romanticized models of gentlemanly behavior. Arthur was thereby turned from a morally gray cuckold into a simple exemplar of chivalry. Arthurian tales are and continue to be shared with audiences of all ages, but these 19th and early 20th adaptations constricted medieval Arthurian myths into a children’s canon of formulaic moral stories that ultimately limited its readership and creative innovations.

 

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