Friday, August 22, 2014

It's the Morte D'Arthur Readalong!

To wrap up my year-long project, and to celebrate Arthurian literature generally, I'd like to host a readalong of Malory's Morte D'Arthur in the late fall.


Sir Thomas Malory was in prison in the 1450s, and he passed the time by compiling all the French romances and English stories he had into one big collection.  The job took him about 20 years!  We don't really have a certain identification for him--there are a few candidates for exactly which Thomas Malory he was--but the most probable is that he was the one from Newbold Revel in Warwickshire, a veteran of Calais.  He was in prison for rather a lot of distinctly non-chivalric behavior.  He also spent time in prison for conspiracy in the Wars of the Roses.

Le Morte D'Arthur is quite long, so I'm giving us a good chunk of time.  The scheduling turned out to be unexpectedly tricky; Caxton originally published the text in 21 books, each with a bunch of short chapters, and my edition uses that arrangement, so I just divided into four sections.  But!  It turns out that many more modern editions collect those 21 books into just eight, divided up by story, so that some books are very long and others very short.  If you have an edition that contains eight books, check the key (which I lifted from Wikipedia) below the schedule and do your best.


Schedule:
October 1-15: Books 1-5
October 16-31: Books 6-9
November 1-15: Books 10-15
November 16-30: Books 16-21
December 1-15: Catchup & Wrapup


List of Modern Divisions
Book I: “From the Marriage of King Uther unto King Arthur that Reigned After Him and Did Many Battles” (Caxton I–IV)
Book II: “The Noble Tale Between King Arthur and Lucius the Emperor of Rome” (Caxton V)
Book III: “The Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot Du Lac” (Caxton VI)
Book IV: “The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney” (Caxton VII)
Book V: “The First and the Second Book of Sir Tristrams de Lione” (Caxton VIII–XII)
Book VI: “The Noble Tale of the Sangreal” (Caxton XIII–XVII)
Book VII: “Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere” (Caxton XVIII–XIX)
Book VIII: “The Death of Arthur” (Caxton XX–XXI)



Malory's original 1485 very early modern English is not really hard to read when compared with, say, Chaucer's Middle English from not that long before.  It's usually been modernized rather than translated; if you fix up the spelling and punctuation, the words themselves are not difficult.  There are many re-writings that put it entirely into current English, but I think those are usually for younger audiences.   So if you're feeling very ambitious, by all means read the original!   

I did read the original at one time, but for this event I want to read the two-volume Everyman edition I got as a library discard from UC Berkeley in April.  It makes me happy to have them, even if they were only in Moffitt library.  It's an 1897 translation by John Rhys, and my copy is from the 1930s.  I might dip into the original too, though...

Hey, if you don't have time to READ the entire Morte D'Arthur, you could listen to it!  Derek Jacobi recorded a wonderful unabridged version.   So I will probably listen to that too; I have it and I enjoyed it quite a bit last time I listened to it.

I hope you'll grab the button and join me for a fun readalong!

9 comments:

Sophia said...

Aw darn, I've read this one already (earlier this year for the challenge). But I'd be interested in seeing your thoughts on it!

exploringclassics said...

You can count me in!!

cleopatra said...

Oh my, you'll never know how thrilled I am to see this! I have been struggling with this book from the beginning of the year. I don't know why, because it's something I would normally like. This read-along will give me focus and to have other readers along on the journey is certainly a wonderful bonus. Thanks!

Jean said...

Aw, Sophia, I'm sorry! I only just thought of it (well, really Ekaterina suggested it!). I hope you'll comment, though.

Thanks for the positive comments! :)

Ekaterina Egorova said...

I'M IN!!! I'll make a post about it sometime soon, after my exam, but I'm so glad you've decided to host it!

Jean said...

Oh, there's lots of time. I figured it would be good to give plenty of warning. :) I'm glad you're going to join!

cleopatra said...

Okay, here is my sign-up post: http://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2014/08/le-morte-darthur-read-along.html

o said...

Excellent, count me in! Looking forward to it :)

romanoir said...

Yep, I'm in! Here's my sign up post: http://romanoir.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/le-morte-darthur/