Concepts of Arthur: the Nature of the Early Arthurian Legend

Concepts of Arthur was published by Tempus in 2007 under a former nom de plume (288 pp, ISBN 978-0-7524-4461-1). It is a detailed study of the ultimate origins of Arthur and the nature and development of the early Arthurian legend, presenting a comprehensive overview of recent scholarship, including the author's own academic research into the sources of the early Arthurian tradition.

‘Concepts of Arthur’ is that rare thing: a book that offers an original and refocused view of the nature of Arthur... Green’s concept of an original mythic Arthur is well presented and cogently argued... a richly-nuanced view of the nature of Arthur that will stir deeper study (Arthuriana: The Journal of Arthurian Studies)

‘Concepts of Arthur’ provides an exhaustive examination of the entire pre-Galfridian Arthurian corpus... Green painstakingly examines previous scholarly debate for or against Arthur's historicity, vigorously challenging the supposed historical value of all pre-Galfridian Arthurian references... valuable to anyone studying the Arthurian legend for its very vigorous and comprehensive discussion of all previous scholarship on the historicity of Arthur and for the painstakingly detailed and imaginative exploration of the early folkloric and legendary concept of Arthur, especially in sources such as ‘Preideu Annwfyn’ and ‘Pa gur yv y porthaur?’ (Speculum: the Journal of the Medieval Academy of America)

 In this thorough re-evaluation, and with impeccable command of sources and scholarship, Green situates Arthur in the realm of folklore... the goal here is to ‘question the fundamental assumptions’ underlying ‘most theories of historical Arthur’. Indeed, Green delivers this in seven chapters, copious notes, and a comprehensive bibliography... this monograph [is] a welcome addition to a twenty-first-century academic flurry (Folklore: the Journal of the Folklore Society)

Demanding but very important (Simon Young, author of The Celtic Sources of the Arthurian Legend and The Celtic Revolution)

There have to be pressing reasons for the enthusiast to add yet another Arthurian title to their groaning bookshelves, but I think this one has them in spades. It follows the growing scholarly trend to treat the idea of an historical Arthur seriously, even if it means ultimately demolishing the case for a real Arthur... Green persuasively argues that there never was such a prototype historical figure (Northern Earth)

“‘Concepts of Arthur’ is an inspiring read which does not disappoint those who want a satisfying contextualising of disparate evidence. (Pendragon)

A meticulously researched study, which for once doesn’t claim to have discovered the ‘real’ King Arthur, but examines the non-Galfridian sources in depth, aiming to get as close to their origin as possible... Pitched at a more academic level than many Arthur books, this is a rigorous and stimulating read. (Oxbow Book News)

Fundamentally, Concepts of Arthur provides an analysis of the entire non-Galfridian Arthurian legend. Unlike many previous studies of Arthur, it avoids a priori assumptions about the origin and development of the Arthurian legend, preferring to argue from first principles. Most importantly, it considers the 'historical Arthur' as a genuine part of the tradition itself, to be treated alongside – and not artificially separated from – all the rest of the early source material. By viewing the 'historical Arthur' in the context of the body of material of which he is a part, significant advances in our understanding of the nature of Arthurian legend are possible – particularly when recent research into the reliability and nature of the supposedly historical references to Arthur is taken into account. As a result of all this, it is argued that Arthur is best understood as an originally folkloric or mythical figure who was historicized in the ninth century.

By virtue of adopting this methodology of using all the available non-Galfridian material – including folklore, poems, prose tales, chronicles, histories and saints' lives – Concepts also provides an exhaustive guide to the entire corpus of early Arthurian material and its significance. For example, full analyses of Arthur's role as the defender of Britain from all threats and of his intimate connection with the Otherworld form an essential and central part of this study. These are both topics that have been rarely seriously investigated since the widespread assumption of Arthur's historicity became de rigueur in the mid-twentieth century, leading to many of even the best studies devoting all their efforts to those few sources that obviously view Arthur as historical. Similarly it is argued that efforts to understand the origins and implications of the name Arthur have been hampered by this same assumption of historicity a new approach to these issues is, as a result, offered in chapter five of Concepts.

These new insights mean that, finally, some intriguing possibilities can be offered for the ultimate origins of Arthur and the tales told of him. If Arthur was not originally historical, how did the concept of Arthur as a post-Roman war-leader emerge and grow? Who, if anyone, was it ultimately based around, and where might he have operated? Was any original non-historical Arthur simply conceived of as a fictional creature of folklore and popular myth, or have we been too ready to reject any notion of truly mythological genesis for him? If so, can anything sensible be said of this beyond noting its possibility, without veering off into the realms of untrammelled speculation? Such questions can only be approached with caution, but it is argued that the new perspectives on the Arthurian legend pursued in the main body of the study can allow at least some tentative answers and suggestions to be offered.

'Concepts of Arthur' consists of the following chapters:

Chapter 1 The Arthur of History: The Evidence and Its Critics
Chapter 2 The Earliest Stratum of the Arthurian Legend
Chapter 3 The Nature of Arthur: ‘A Mighty Defender'?
Chapter 4 The Nature of Arthur's War-Band and Family
Chapter 5 The Origins of ‘Arthur'
Chapter 6 The Historicization of Arthur
Chapter 7 ‘The Arthur of the British': A Maximum View

Click the following link for authorial notes and comments on Concepts of Arthur: Author's Notes & Comments.

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