The Birth of Camelot: The Literary Origins of the Hollywood Arthuriana
Round Table Pizza, Excalibur Hotel, King Arthur’s Flour, Camelot Restaurant: Arthur and his knights are everywhere—at the movies, on television, in comic books, popular music, theme parks, renaissance fairs, and “medieval” restaurants—and selling everything from literal products— flour, pizza, dry cleaning, car repairs—to symbolic capital—idealism, utopia, democracy, loyalty, bravery.1 When America dreams the medieval past, it dreams of the high chivalric age of Arthur’s court, a dream that, as Christopher Baswell and William Sharpe remind us, dates back to a medieval medievalism: “There is no Arthurian ‘now.’At every stage of the tradition, the narrative moment, the moment of the tale’s telling, hesitates between a past irrevocably lost and a future forever waiting.”2 King Arthur is always-already dead and his kingdom always-already fallen; from its first appearance to its latest popular culture iteration, Arthurian legend presents a golden past that never was in order to argue for a future that could be. In this golden age, Arthur reigned over a court characterized by power and plentitude—in it the best men and the most beautiful ladies gathered to feast and, from it, brave warriors rode forth to defend their boundaries and rights from all challengers.
KeywordsNational Identity Round Table Comic Book Masculine Identity Ideal Past
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