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L ’E s pr it C réa te u r think, unintentionally ambivalent but in her biographical detail Beauvoir’s pleasure in mas­ querade and Simons’s admiration of it break through and break down the cultural taboo on the aging body. K a t h l e e n W o o d w a r d Univ. o f Wisconsin-Milwaukee Norris J. Lacy and Geoffrey Ashe. T h e A r t h u r ia n H a n d b o o k . New York: Garland, 1988. Pp. xiii + 455. $45/18.25. The recent publication of several books in English on the Arthurian tradition provides long-needed texts for university courses. The Arthurian H andbook serves as an excellent complement to the two-volume Romance o f Arthur (Garland, 1984 and 1986) that includes English translations of both historical and literary texts from sixth-century chronicles to the fifteenth-century M orte Darthur of Sir Thomas Malory. Chapters I and II in The Arthurian Handbook, Geoffrey Ashe’s essay on “ Origins” and Norris Lacy’s “ Early Arthurian Literature,” supplement the brief introductions that precede those texts. Readers desiring an even more complete treatment of a particular subject should refer to the comprehensive Arthurian Encyclopedia (Garland, 1986). Lacy continues in Chapter III of the Handbook, “ Modern Arthurian Literature,” to trace Arthur’s literary fate from the sixteenth century to the present, especially in Britain and America but also in France and Germany. In Chapter IV, “ Arthur in the A rts,” he points out numerous manifestations of the tradition in tapestries, murals, paintings, book illustrations, in music from Wagner’s operas to “ Camelot,” in films from Disney’s The Sword in the Stone to the much more sophisticated Excalibur. Forty-two illustrations provide visual examples of some of these works of art as well as photographs of sites such as Cadbury Castle and Tintagel and manuscript illuminations. Particularly useful tools for both student and professor included in the handbook are a map of Arthurian Britain and a detailed (18 page) chronology table covering the years from 410 to the 1980’s that pinpoints events in history, art, and literature associated with the Arthurian legend. Ashe’s glossary of authors, characters, terms, and places provides a ready reference for those who do not have easy access to the Arthurian Encyclopedia. The index makes the work even more useful, since one can determine immediately if a particular subject is treated. In addition, each chapter is keyed to the rather extensive bibliography at the end of the volume. Even though this work was conceived more for a general audience than for the scholar, it may contain material of interest to a scholar outside the limits of his/her normal range. Its broad, brief presentation of all aspects of Arthuriana from the fifth century through the Middle Ages to the present day succeeds in the stated purpose of conveying a sense of the development of the legend (xi). As Lacy states in the conclusion, “ the legend of King Arthur is our most pervasive and enduring secular myth” (289). It has captured the imagination of the unlettered, the scholar, and the artist for centuries. Even more impor­ tant, Lacy asserts, the legend continues to evolve, taking on new forms and shapes. It is the prototype of escapist literature that appeals to a broad range of human emotions that have changed little since the fifth century. The versatility and adaptability of the legend permit it to move back and forth in time to suit many purposes and fantasies, from children’s fiction to the image for an American presidency. It is a myth that has “ flourished in folklore and permeated popular culture” (291). The Arthurian Handbook helps the reader to sort out the early tradition from later adaptations of the legend. It makes clear that modern writers 106 W in t e r 1989 Bo o k R ev iew s such as Mary Stewart have not deformed the legend but have done for the twentieth century what Chrétien de Troyes did for the twelfth. D e b o r a h H u b b a r d N...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 106-107
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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