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The Grunts’ King Arthur: Civic Humanism, Masculinities, and Legend in the Novels of Jack Whyte and Bernard Cornwell

  • Amelia A. Rutledge
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

Contemporary scholars approach the matter of a “historical” Arthur with caution; fiction writers avail themselves freely of the “unknowable”— the information gaps of the legend—as a langue for their parole. Archaeological or genealogical data are deployed not only tor the aura of verisimilitude they can impart, but also as a means of signaling the implied audience and defining the ideological frameworks of the “Arthurian” narrative. I wish to argue that the Arthurian series of Jack Whyte and Bernard Cornwell, grounded in nostalgia for empire and framed by ideologies and subgenres reminiscent of nineteenth-century adventure fiction, discard the romance elements of the legend, thus preserving the wartime crisis atmosphere conducive to narratives of hypermasculine activity; further, the authors use the factitiousness of the “historical” Arthurian world as the basis for ironic interrogation (Cornwell) or for occasionally tendentious idealization (Whyte) of the received tradition.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Jack Whyte, The Singing Sword (New York: Tor, 1996), pp. 539–42.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See the essay by Donald Hall, “On the Making and Unmaking of Monsters: Christian Socialism, Muscular Christianity, and the Metaphorization of Class Conflict,” in Muscular Christianity: Embodying the Victorian Age, ed. Donald E. Hall (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 45–65.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Graham Dawson, Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinity (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 48.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    Joseph Bristow, Empire Boys: Adventures in a Man’s World (London and New York: Unwin Hyman, 1991), p. 147.Google Scholar
  5. 15.
    Athanasios Moulakis, “Civic Humanism,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta (Winter 2002).Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    David Rosen, “The Volcano and the Cathedral: Muscular Christianity and the Origins of Primal Manliness,” in Muscular Christianity: Embodying the Victorian Age, ed. Donald E. Hall (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 17–44.Google Scholar
  7. 20.
    Martin Green, Dreams of Adventure (New York: Basic Books, 1979), p. 10.Google Scholar
  8. 22.
    Jack Whyte, Uther (NewYork: Tor, 2001), p. 111.Google Scholar
  9. 24.
    Jack Whyte, The Saxon Shore (New York: Tor, 1998), p. 291.Google Scholar
  10. 25.
    Dan Nastali, “Arthur Without Fantasy: Dark Age Britain in Recent Historical Fiction,” Arthuriana 9 (1999): 7.Google Scholar
  11. 38.
    Jack Whyte, The Eagles’ Brood (New York: Tor, 1997), pp. 505–08.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephanie Hayes-Healy 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amelia A. Rutledge

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