Date of Award

Fall 11-20-2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Carolyn M. Craft

Second Advisor

Martha E. Cook

Third Advisor

Craig Challender

Abstract

From Malory's Morte Darthur, through Tennyson's Idylls of the King, and through Robinson's Merlin and Lancelot, Guinevere and Vivien evolve from mere servants of a masculine plot and theme to well-rounded characters who struggle with the same problems that confront their male counterparts. Malory's world is about knights, warfare, and a holy quest, with women acting or reacting in certain ways only to move the plot along. While Tennyson develops female characters more fully than Malory, the great Victorian pays no homage to Arthurian womankind, bringing to his work a philosophy of sin-weakness-destruction that makes Vivien an evil seductress and Guinevere a woman who allows her passions to destroy a kingdom. In contrast, Robinson's Vivian and Guinevere are women of strength, intelligence, and imagination, whose male counterparts share the burden of fate and history. If these women are partly responsible for the ruin of Camelot, they are equally responsible for its glory, assuring that the tradition lives beyond tales of chivalry and endures as a timeless legend of human beings struggling through tragedy and loss.

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