Document Type

Senior Honors Project

Publication Date



The story of King Arthur and his knights is a narrative that spans centuries, a myth recreated by a variety of people for a variety of purposes. This thesis, by investigating key moments in the history of the Arthurian tradition, seeks to reveal the fluidity of Arthurian tales and identify some of the features that make them prevalent and influential across time. Part I examines the development of the Arthurian tradition, identifying significant time periods and works of literature that contributed to the formation of the overarching legend. Part II discusses two key eras that illustrate how the myth has been appropriated and the ways it contributed to that particular time: the ideas of knighthood and the Holy Grail found in Nazi Germany, and the Camelot myth of John F. Kennedy’s presidency. Part III turns towards a contemporary work featuring Arthur and explores how it has been adapted for a modern audience, analyzing the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC’s) television series Merlin. Considering the revisions and innovations made to the Arthurian myth in the show, I posit the contemporary issues it addresses and compare the role it serves today to the roles played by the myth in the past. In conclusion, I propose what makes the Arthurian narrative as adaptable and timeless as to be continually reinvented over thousands of years.


Honors Program