About this course

Britain and Ireland have a rich heritage of myths and legend that merit comparison with the better-known Greek and Norse cycles. This course will begin by analysing early Celtic myths and legends, exemplified by the Irish epic The Táin and the Welsh Mabinogion. We will examine the cultural practices and values that the texts reflect, and consider the relationship between myth and history in these tales of romance, spells, shape-shifting, and battle. We will read the earliest tales of King Arthur, along with adaptations ranging from the medieval period to the nineteenth century, and compare this aristocratic figure with Robin Hood, a hero of the people. We will explore legends of fairies, giants, dragons, and boggarts, myth revisions by modern poets such as Yeats and Eliot, and examples of contemporary mythmaking.

The study trip takes us to Cadbury Castle and Glastonbury Abbey, the legendary burial place of King Arthur.

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