“My Other World”: Historical Reflections and Refractions in Modern Arthurian Fantasy

  • Philippa Semper
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The significance for modern fantasy writing of the medieval world in general and the Arthurian legend in particular is well documented; as one scholar notes, “one can hardly call to mind a fantasy work in any genre or media without calling up the medieval (and usually the Arthurian).”1 Yet, the relationship between “the medieval” and “the Arthurian” is complex. Many authors have attempted to write Arthur as historical fiction, setting their work in the fifth-sixth centuries when the “real” Arthur is supposed to have lived, rather than the twelfth or fifteenth, when the most famous medieval Arthurian texts were composed. Dan Nastali has characterized this as “Arthur without fantasy,” since it seeks to present a historical past, albeit an imagined one.2 So prevalent is this approach that Snyder has claimed that “nearly all of the contemporary Arthurian authors, from the late 1970s on, prefer the historical approach to Arthur.”3


Thirteenth Century Modern Reader Reading Pointer Alternate History Historical Fiction 
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© Gail Ashton and Daniel T. Kline 2012

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  • Philippa Semper

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