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Old 05-10-2013, 09:48 PM   #1
Aiwendil
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The Fall of Arthur

Has anyone else picked this up yet? I had actually forgotten that it was coming out in May and was delighted to find it at Barnes and Noble today. Haven't started it yet, but I have a long train ride on Sunday that it will be perfect for. It's quite exciting to have a 'new' Tolkien book.
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Old 05-11-2013, 01:00 AM   #2
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Oh! You are a lucky guy. I'm waiting for it like water of May, as we say in Spain, and never better said. But I think that as the spanish editorial did with Sigurd and Gudrun, publishing in a book the original text with the translation, they will do the same and I'll wait.
You tell us things about it.
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Old 05-11-2013, 03:12 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil View Post
Has anyone else picked this up yet? I had actually forgotten that it was coming out in May and was delighted to find it at Barnes and Noble today.
Since the book is not supposed to be out until the 23rd, I guess you've been lucky to come across a book shop that has put it out by mistake — lucky you!

I've had mine on pre-order for quite a while now, but I suspect that I may have to wait a day or two after the 23rd before it will be delivered here in Denmark.
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Old 05-11-2013, 09:18 AM   #4
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Yes, it seems my local Barnes & Noble put it on the shelves too early. I'm not complaining, though. I will report on it in due course.
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Old 05-13-2013, 10:29 PM   #5
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Well, I've read it.

First of all, the poem (what was written of it) is, alas, rather short. I count only 853 lines total across the four finished cantos and the unfinished fifth. But there are, as one would expect from Tolkien, a few notes, outlines, and very rough scraps of verse indicating how it would have continued.

What the poem lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. The verse is excellent; this is among the finest pieces of poetry Tolkien wrote, and I would say that his mastery of the alliterative metre here surpasses that of his other long works in that form ('The Children of Hurin' and the 'New Lays' of Sigurd and Gudrun). Particularly effective are the frequent evocations of weather and natural scenery; for example:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tolkien
In the South from sleep to swift fury
a storm was stirred, striding northward
over leagues of water loud with thunder
and roaring rain it rushed onward.
Their hoary heads hills and mountains
tossed in tumult on the towering seas.
On Benwick's beaches breakers pounding
ground gigantic grumbling boulders
with ogre anger. The air was salt
with spume and spindrift splashed to vapour.
But the real strength of the poem is in the characters that it briefly but effectively sketches. It is focused on Arthur, Gawain, Mordred, Guinevere, and Lancelot, and in a minimum of lines each of them becomes a clearly defined, well-rounded character.

Comparison with The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun is probably inevitable. That work is undeniably the more ambitious, and the larger in scope; even if 'The Fall of Arthur' had been completed it would have been shorter and more restricted in its action. But - and perhaps precisely because of its smaller scope - 'The Fall of Arthur' feels somewhat richer and more perfectly constructed. In particular, I find the phrasing in 'Arthur' clearer and more natural than that in Tolkien's Norse poems.

As for the story, in draws chiefly from the alliterative Morte Arthure and Malory's Morte d'Arthur, following each by turns. There are, of course, points at which Tolkien departs from these sources, largely with the aims of simplifying the story or of making the plot more plausible. And particularly in the ending, as projected in his notes, he strikes his own path (though Layamon's Brut is an influence there).

The extant poem is followed by three sections of commentary by Christopher Tolkien, and as usual his commentary is exceedingly clear and cogent. The first section places the work in the context of Arthurian literature, tracing the elements of the story that come from various sources and exploring the way in which Tolkien shaped those elements for his own purposes. The second presents the notes and drafting for the unwritten portions of the poem and also looks at the very interesting but rather enigmatic connection between the poem and Tolkien's own Legendarium: the apparent identification of Avalon with Tol Eressea. The third section is a condensed but illuminating account of the evolution of the poem, and of notable changes from one draft to the next.
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Old 05-23-2013, 08:04 AM   #6
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Will be picking it up today.

I'm not surprised if it is "richer" than Sigurd and Gudrun; the latter was very consciously written in imitation of the Eddaic style, terse, even disjointed, intended to catch the fleeting moment, to make an impact, like a flash of lightning caught on film. A-S verse was more ruminative and discursive; and to that the 14th Century alliterative revival (the apparent model for FoA) added the High Middle Ages' love of texture.

In terms of directors, the Eddas were David Lynch, the Anglo-Saxons Ingmar Bergman, the M-EAR Kurosawa.
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Old 05-24-2013, 01:29 AM   #7
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Apparently I ordered this on Amazon a few months ago as part of a bulk Tolkien purchase without realising it wasn't out yet and it's now on its way. Very curious to see what the Anglo-Saxon enthusiast Professor Tolkien makes of this Welsh tradition!
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Old 05-24-2013, 12:01 PM   #8
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Very curious to see what the Anglo-Saxon enthusiast Professor Tolkien makes of this Welsh tradition!
Apparently by removing most all the Welsh element. Tolkien is working mostly from the Geoffrey-tradition by way of Laymon and the Alliterative M-A, with the addition of the Lancelot element which the French added in (as modified by Malory).
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Old 05-24-2013, 02:20 PM   #9
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Any reference to Williams' Arthurian poems in the book? I've often wondered if one reason Tolkien left FoA was because of Taliesin Through Logres. Apparently Tolkien dropped FoA around 1937 & 'Taliesin' was published in 1938. Lewis & Williams were corresponding from, what, 1936 so would he have read TTL & made Tolkien aware of it?

Or is this all covered in the book?
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Old 05-24-2013, 04:13 PM   #10
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Any reference to Williams' Arthurian poems in the book? I've often wondered if one reason Tolkien left FoA was because of Taliesin Through Logres. Apparently Tolkien dropped FoA around 1937 & 'Taliesin' was published in 1938. Lewis & Williams were corresponding from, what, 1936 so would he have read TTL & made Tolkien aware of it?

Or is this all covered in the book?
Tolkien had never met Williams at the time Arthur was written (1933-34)
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Old 05-24-2013, 11:47 PM   #11
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Tolkien had never met Williams at the time Arthur was written (1933-34)
A) I knew that, and

B) that wasn't one of the questions I asked.

May I assume CT doesn't mention Williams' work at all? Would Tolkien not have brought up his own poem on Arthur when Williams was reading from RotSS during Inklings meetings?
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Old 05-25-2013, 06:16 AM   #12
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Tolkien Just bought it

I've just bought it, and will let people know what I think.
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Old 05-25-2013, 09:49 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Davem
May I assume CT doesn't mention Williams' work at all? Would Tolkien not have brought up his own poem on Arthur when Williams was reading from RotSS during Inklings meetings?
I don't recall any mention of Williams, no.

As for the possibility of Williams's work being a reason that Tolkien abandoned the poem - I suppose one can't rule that possibility out, but it's worth noting that although Tolkien stopped working on the poem after the 1930s, he referred to it in a letter of 1955 saying that he still hoped to finish it. It seems to me more likely that it was the beginning of his work on a sequel to The Hobbit in 1937 that led to the abandonment of "The Fall of Arthur".
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Old 05-25-2013, 11:30 AM   #14
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I don't recall any mention of Williams, no.

As for the possibility of Williams's work being a reason that Tolkien abandoned the poem - I suppose one can't rule that possibility out, but it's worth noting that although Tolkien stopped working on the poem after the 1930s, he referred to it in a letter of 1955 saying that he still hoped to finish it. It seems to me more likely that it was the beginning of his work on a sequel to The Hobbit in 1937 that led to the abandonment of "The Fskids tf Arthur".
I do seem to recall reading (Carpenter's Inklings?) that Tolkien hated Williams' Arthurian poems. It would be odd if he didn't bring up his own attempts during meetings - especially if he hadn't abandoned FoA altogether. I do wonder whether Williams' publication of his Arthurian poems didn't have an effect on Tolkien's decision not to pick up the work again during the war. It was clearly very significant to Williams and maybe Tolkien felt he would be 'stepping on Williams' toes' if he continued. Whatever, it seems odd that CT wouldn't even mention Williams' greatest work even in passing, given the common subject matter - not to mention the amazing coincidence that both of them happened to hit on the idea of writing an epic poem on the subject at the same time.
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Old 05-25-2013, 05:46 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Davem
Whatever, it seems odd that CT wouldn't even mention Williams' greatest work even in passing, given the common subject matter - not to mention the amazing coincidence that both of them happened to hit on the idea of writing an epic poem on the subject at the same time.
Well, without any evidence linking the two works, anything CT might have said would have been pure speculation. And in his commentary on the Arthurian legends, he makes a point of only discussing the chronicle tradition of the 12th-15th centuries, the works to which 'The Fall of Arthur' bears the closest relation (rather understandably, I think; any attempt to give even a cursory summary of the entire corpus of Arthurian literature would have made the book many times as long).
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Old 06-11-2013, 10:28 PM   #16
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In Humphrey Carpenter’s The Inklings on page 123 and following there is a poem by J. R. R. Tolkien written about Charles Williams. In this poem Tolkien mentions his joy in Williams’ wisdom and virtues and his companionship. But Tolkien also makes it quite plain that Tolkien did not very much like Williams’ Arthurian poems.

Tolkien writes:
Geodisy say rather; for many a ‘fen’
he wrote, and chapters bogged in tangled rhymes,
and has surveyed Europa’s lands and climes,
dividing her from P’o-L’u’s crawling slimes,
in her diving buttocks, breast, and head
(to say no fouler thing), where I instead,
dull-eyed, can only see a watershed,
a plain, an island, or a mountain-chain.
In short Tolkien did not appreciate Williams’ geographical allegories, which is not surprising as, in general, Tolkien did not like allegories.

Tolkien also disliked Williams’ praise of Byzantium as an image of heaven where Tolkien only saw an enormous city famed for its slaves and eunuchs. For him Byzantium is rather a symbol “of Rule that strangles and of Laws that kill.”

Tolkien also did not much like what Williams had made of Taliessin, although in his poem Tolkien believes, wrongly, that the historical Taliesin “in the days of Cymbeline he wrought.” In fact the historical Taliesin flourished some time following the traditional Arthurian period and was a bard of King Urien of Rheged. At least Taliesin presents himself as such in the poems now accepted as authentic.

Christopher Tolkien in The Fall of Arthur does not mention anything of the very little that Tolkien wrote on Arthur elsewhere and I don’t see that any mention of such scraps would add much to his essays. These cover the traditions of Arthur which lie behind this poem and trace the development of the poem and give hints of where it was going.

The poem is traced mainly to Laȝamon’s Brut, the alliterative Morte Arthure, the stanzaic Morte Arthur, and Malory’s Le Morte d'Arthur, in short the main works written in Middle-English that cover the matter of Tolkien’s poem. Tolkien also invents a lot from his own imagination.

Christopher Tolkien indicates that his father's last work on The Fall of Arthur occurred in 1937 when he started work on The Lord of the Rings and seems to see that as the main reason why he did not return to it at that time; he had become absorbed in other matters.

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Old 06-01-2015, 10:20 PM   #17
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There has not been much posted here on The Fall of Arthur. I am rather knowledgeable on the subject, but chose instead of publishing here to publish reviews in the fanzine Minas Tirith Evening Star and in the fanzine Amon Hen. Some of my thoughts from those articles follow along with material not published there.

The book The Fall of Arthur, unlike Tolkien’s The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrśn and Tolkien’s Beowulf, is an incomplete poem and one which unlike the other two he is basing largely on his own creative imagination rather than on pre-existing sources. Tolkien does not present Arthur absent from Britain in a campaign against Rome, as in some of his sources, or in a war against Lancelot in Gaul, as in other later sources. Tolkien instead has Arthur leading a continental campaign against the continental Saxons and their eastern allies when news is brought to him that his nephew Mordred whom he has left to rule in his place has revolted against him and joined with the western Saxons, Angles, and Jutes against him.

Yet Tolkien presents in retrospect much of the later Lancelot story in which Lancelot has been caught openly with Guinevere and is forced to rescue Guinevere from being burned alive at the stake for the adultery she had committed with him. Gawain’s brothers Agravain, Gaheris, and Gareth are slain in those battles, although Gawain’s subsequent hatred for Lancelot is not stressed, unlike the standard Lancelot story which makes a great deal of it, especially in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur which makes much of Lancelot’s former love for Gareth and Gareth’s former love for Lancelot.

Tolkien seems to prefer the ultra-heroic Gawain of earlier tales to Malory’s version, the one seen, for example, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. But Lancelot is clearly imagined in Tolkiens poem to be the better knight of the two. And Tolkien removes any particular religious side to the Lancelot story. Unlike Tolkien’s sources there is no mention of the Pope or the Bishop of Rochester influencing Lancelot and Arthur to make peace and persuading Arthur to accept Guinevere back. Lancelot seems to make the decision entirely on his own. Tolkien makes no mention of the Holy Grail or connected traditions.

Christopher Tolkien on page 181 gives a passage which his father later replaced:
In Benwick the Blessed  once Ban was king,
whose fathers aforetime   over fallow waters
in the holy lands  their homes leaving
to the western world  wandering journeyed,
Christendom bearing,  kingdoms founding,
walls uprearing,   against the wild peoples.
Towers strong and tall   turned to northward
had Ban builded;  breakers thundered
This mostly agrees with the descent of Ban, father of Lancelot of the Lake, in Lancelot-Grail: The Quest for the Holy Grail, translated by E. J. Burns, (chapter 41) [ https://books.google.ca/books?id=8Bd...0grail&f=false ], in Lancelot-Grail: The History of the Holy Grail, translated by Carol J. Chase ( chapters 12 & 41) [https://books.google.ca/books?id=wgj...0grail&f=false ], and in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur XV.4 [ http://web.archive.org/web/200301211...&division=div2 ]. In this account St. Joseph of Arimathea moves to the city of Sarras just outside of Egypt, and christens a certain duke Seraph of the region called Orberika who takes the Christian name of Nascien and is famed as the greatest knight of his time. From this Nascien descends the following line of sons: (1) Celidoine, (2) Narpus, (3) Nascien, (4) Alain (Alan) the Stout, (5) Ysaļes (Isaiah), (6) Jonaans (Jonah), (7) Lancelot, (8) Ban, (9) Lancelot of the Lake, (10) Galaad (Galahad). However Tolkien never mentions anything about the Holy Grail in his Arthurian poem and may have felt more comfortable in ignoring any tradition that might be connected to the Grail.

Also, in traditional literature dealing with Lancelot and Guinevere, Lancelot becomes a hermit, and in some accounts a priest, before he dies in his hermitage. But Tolkien seems to have intended his Lancelot not to have become a hermit, but to have sailed west to join with Arthur in Avalon. Tolkien was writing a fairy story and felt entitled to modify his sources as he pleased.

Tolkien similarly ignores a statement found only in Malory XIII.7 (from Shepherd’s edition, spelling modernized by me):
 ¶“Yeah, forsooth,” said the Queen, “for he is of all parts comen of the best knights of the world, and of the highest lineage; for Sir Launcelot is come but of the eighth degree from Our Lord Jesu Christ, and this Sir Galahad is the ninth degree from Our Lord Jesu Christ:

 ¶“Therefore I dare say they be the greatest gentlemen of the world.”
Tolkien also ignores traditions placing Arthur’s burial or departure at Glastonbury Abbey, preferring earlier accounts that Avalon be a mysterious fairy isle in the western seas to which Arthur is taken and placing Arthur’s last earthly battle in the fabulous land of Lyonesse off Cornwall.

But the tradition that Arthur’s last battle was in this Lyonesse goes back no farther than the poem “The Morte d’Arthur” by the famous Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. See http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174637 . It appears to arise from a completely unrelated legend of ancient storms which tore up the former Island of Scilly into separate small islands. But the former name of the island is said to be Lethowstow, not Lyonesse.

Lyonesse or Leonois is instead a possibly fictional country said to be the heritage of the Arthurian knight Tristan in the Prose Tristan and said to border on Cornwall/Cornoaille. See Le roman de Tristan en prose I, edited by Renée Curtis. But in this version of the Tristan story Cornwall/Cornoaille and Leonois seem to be in Brittany and not part of insular Britain. The early kings of Cornwall/Cornoaille and Leonois are under the control of French kings of Paris. Whenever a character in this part of the story goes to Paris from Cornwall/Cornoaille or Leonois the character goes on horseback, but for journeys to or from Great Britain the character goes by ship.

Seemingly the author thinks that Cornoaille is the country of Domnonie in Brittany, for Dumnonia was the Latin name for both insular Cornwall and Breton Domnonie. Leonois would be the region to the west of Domnonie known as Léon, bordering on Domnonie. Or possibly Cornoaille is to be identified as the region of Cornoaille in the southwest of Brittany, although this does not border on Léon.

That if Cornwall is to be identified with insular Cornwall, then Lyonesse or Lionnesse is likely to be the traditional Lithowstow may have been earlier mis-guessed, but this was first stated in print in Richard Carew’s The Survey of Cornwall, first published in 1602. For a reprint of this work see http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/...78-images.html and search on Lionnesse and the erroneous printing Lethowsow.

Leonois usually appears in medieval French as Loėnois, and refers to the district of Lothian, the sound of th as in the Modern English word the generally not being pronounced in French. The final -ois corresponds roughly to the English suffix -ish.

Arthur lands in Britain at Richborough in Geoffrey of Monmouth but at Romney in Wace and Laȝamon. In the Alliterative Morte Arthure Arthur’s landing site is not named. Other reasonably full accounts place the landing at Dover. Tolkien follows Wace and Laȝamon, or perhaps we should say he follows Laȝamon, for Wace relates almost nothing not also in Laȝamon. See http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14305 .

But most of Tolkien’s details follow the Alliterative Morte Arthure. See http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/tex...arthur-part-iv , Part IV and following. Here alone among Tolkien’s sources it is King Craddok who brings Arthur word of Mordred’s treachery, but details differ in that Craddok in Tolkien is not in pilgrim’s guise. Again Tolkien has removed the religious colouring. Tolkien also mentions Arthur’s bearing the Virgin Mary on his sail. The ebbing tide hinders Arthur’s landing but Gawain takes a boat with a few companions and then wades ashore. Gawain fights with Galuth his sword, here alone this name being used. Gawain fights with a golden griffon on his ship’s banner and on his shield. Gawain slays the King of Gothland. Then Gawain is slain by Mordred.

On page 85 Christopher Tolkien writes:
Professor Eugčne Vinaver, in his great edition (The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, three volumes, 1947), showed that this tale was actually the first that Malory wrote, and he argued that ‘contrary to the generally accepted view, he first became familiar with the Arthurian legend not through “French books” but through an English poem, the alliterative Morte Arthure’ (Vinaver, I, xli).
In fact Vinaver absolutely failed to prove his case and I know no Arthurian scholar today who would accept it. For possibly the best essay partially on the web on this matter see https://books.google.ca/books?id=RWf...kamiya&f=false , III MALORY AND HIS ENGLISH SOURCES by Edward D. Kennedy.

Vinaver originally put forth his theory about the Winchester Mauscript of Malory in 1947 and immediately began to receive opposition to it. He did not argue his case, but simply ignored the opposition in his writing. It was soon proved that there were various discrepancies within the supposedly individual tales. It was proved as much as anything can be that Malory in the supposedly individual tales included material of his own invention intended to connect the tales into a coherent whole. Vinaver simply refused to discuss the problem. Now Vinaver is deceased, but even before his death in 1979 scholarly discussion had ceased because Vinaver would not discuss the matter and no-one would speak on his behalf or argue for his position.

In 1998 Helen Cooper published an abridged version of Malory in modern English for Oxford University Press and does not in her comments even discuss Vinaver’s theory. In 2003 Stephen H. A. Shepherd published an edition of Malory for Norton Critical Editions with lots of notes and critical discussion, but not a word about Vinaver’s theory. In December 2013 P. J. C. Field, generally held to be the current foremost expert on Malory, has published a two volume edition of Malory for D. S. Brewer, one volume primarily of text and the second of commentary, which only mentions Vinaver’s theory twice in quick fashion to indicate it is not accepted.

My own opinion in verse form:
Morte Darthur, Morte d’Arthur,
 Sir Thomas Malory,
Caxton’s the printer
  whose work was adored,
Vinaver viewed it
 Winch’ster Manuscriptic’ly—
Made up a dumb theory
  most hearers abhorred.

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Old 06-10-2015, 09:05 AM   #18
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http://forum.barrowdowns.com/newreply.php?do=newreply&noquote=1&p=697095

Err

Kennedy:
Quote:
Vinaver's suggestion that Malory first became interested in the Arthurian legend through English rather than French sources is plausible... but Vinaver's accompanying hypothesis, accepted by many scholars, that ... [etc] ... are, in my opinion, questionable. [emphasis added]
It seems that Kennedy's objection is primarily confined to Vinaver's notion that Book II was written before Book I. Certainly he has no problem with, in fact refers to approvingly, Vinaver's conclusion that Book II was largely taken directly from the AMA (except for the ending), a derivation concealed by Caxton's revision.

Let's also not forget that CRT has been out of academia since 1975.
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Old 06-10-2015, 02:24 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
It seems that Kennedy's objection is primarily confined to Vinaver's notion that Book II was written before Book I. Certainly he has no problem with, in fact refers to approvingly, Vinaver's conclusion that Book II was largely taken directly from the AMA (except for the ending), a derivation concealed by Caxton's revision.
I am aware of no article that has ever denied that Malory’s Book II was not taken directly from the Allierative Morte Arthure, whether before or after the finding of the Winchester Manuscript of Malory. Are you uniquely denying this? If not, then what is the point of your comment?

Quote:
Let's also not forget that CRT has been out of academia since 1975.
I don’t understand what you are talking about, but merely assume that by CRT you do not mean cathode ray tube.

*Oops*! I now realize that by CRT you meant Christopher [John] Reuel Tolkien. However I don’t see that this is a valid excuse for this error by Christopher Tolkien, or for any error. I do believe that this error comes from casual searching in a subject in which he was not a specialist rather than expressing a strong and considered belief in Vinaver’s correctness.

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Old 06-27-2015, 01:36 PM   #20
William Cloud Hicklin
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I am aware of no article that has ever denied that Malory’s Book II was not taken directly from the Allierative Morte Arthure, whether before or after the finding of the Winchester Manuscript of Malory. Are you uniquely denying this? If not, then what is the point of your comment?
Nobody denied it before or after the WM, because nobody had even pointed it out before Vinaver and the WM, and since it's so obviously correct, nobody afterwards AFAIK has seriously disagreed with it.

You wrote
Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chritopher Tolkien
Vinaver... showed that this tale was actually the first that Malory wrote, and he argued that ‘contrary to the generally accepted view, he first became familiar with the Arthurian legend not through “French books” but through an English poem, the alliterative Morte Arthure’ (Vinaver, I, xli).
In fact Vinaver absolutely failed to prove his case and I know no Arthurian scholar today who would accept it.
One would take that to mean that all modern scholars, exemplum Kennedy, reject both parts of the thesis as you cited it from CRT: (a) that Book II was written first, and (b) that it was derived from the AMA. If you only intended to refute (a), you could have been more clear about it.
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Old 06-27-2015, 04:36 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
One would take that to mean that all modern scholars, exemplum Kennedy, reject both parts of the thesis as you cited it from CRT: (a) that Book II was written first, and (b) that it was derived from the AMA. If you only intended to refute (a), you could have been more clear about it.
I intended to indicate that Christopher Tolkien’s Fall of Arthur was the only modern book I have read that gave any credence to the theory that Malory wrote Book II before any other surviving Arthurian work, which you are correct is one of the main points of Kennedy’s essay. I also intended to indicate that Vinaver’s theory that Malory’s Le Morte dArthur was intended to be read as separate and unconnected tales was equally unsupported today.

I did not mention at all the theory that Book II of Malory’s Le Morte dArthur was primarily based on the Alliterative Morte Arthure but know of no-one who has ever questioned it and so saw no reason to bring the matter up.

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