sword in the stone 3 - Title: From Children's Story to...

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Title: From Children's Story to Adult Fiction: T. H. White's The Once and Future King Author(s): Heather Worthington [(essay date summer 2002) In the following essay, Worthington traces White's deliberate evolution of The Once and Future King from its children-oriented beginnings in The Sword in the Stone to the more adult progressions found in the last two books. ] The fundamental character of the mythical concept is to be appropriated.Roland Barthes, Mythologies The myth of King Arthur has been appropriated and adapted by many writers and in various ways, but most frequently as a vehicle for contemporary, sometimes personal, anxieties and concerns. The nineteenth-century revival of interest in the myth, as exemplified in William Morris's 'Defence of Guinevere' (1858), Swinburne's 'Tristram of Lyonesse' (1882), and Tennyson's Idylls of the King (1886) 1 in the main took the fifteenth-century Le Morte Darthur (1485) of Malory as its inspiration. However, in the twentieth century T. H. White is unusual in taking Malory's text as the inspiration for his Arthuriad The Once and Future King. As Elisabeth Brewer notes, White's epic 'is probably the last major retelling of the story based on Malory, set in the Middle Ages and in the chivalric tradition. Most subsequent writers have gone further back in time to a more primitive age.' 2 The Once and Future King, while far from being the only interpretation of the Arthur story in the twentieth century, is thus arguably the last successful adaptation of Malory's work as opposed to those other fictional Arthurs whose origins can be traced back to an earlier, less chivalric time. 3 Where Malory's Le Morte Darthur imagines an essentially adult world, White's inspired notion was to construct what he called 'a preface to Mallory ( sic ),' 4 and imagine a childhood for Arthur. The gap in Arthur's story between his birth as documented in Malory and his later succession to the throne of England is accounted for in The Sword in the Stone , the first volume of White's Arthuriad. The successive volumes chart Arthur's progress into manhood and old age, culminating on the eve of his death, a progression which follows the form of a biographical narrative: to some extent White's reinterpretation of the Arthurian myth functions as a biography. Further, the text has its own life story. The narrative structure which takes Arthur from childhood to maturity is paralleled in the textual structure; the five novels comprising the whole text themselves evolve from children's stories into adult fictions, an evolution that mimics the pattern of a biography and which positions childhood experience as the foundation of the adult subject. Within this context White used his own experiences of childhood, both positive and negative, the latter evidenced particularly in his portrayal of women. I suggest that The Once and Future King allowed White a textual space in which to explore his ambivalent feelings towards his mother and women generally, and to some extent project his own homoerotic
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This note was uploaded on 10/16/2011 for the course ENGLISH 101 taught by Professor Parkin during the Summer '11 term at Wilfred Laurier University .

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sword in the stone 3 - Title: From Children's Story to...

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