The King Arthur Myth in Modern American Literature
In American fiction, two forms of the Arthurian myth are commonly found: the use of the myth for political reasons, and the use of the myth for the continuation of an aesthetic tradition that can be traced back to the earliest use of the Arthurian cycle by writers in the British Isles. This work traces the use of the legend from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court to Donald Barthelme's novel The King. It discusses how Twain used the myth to take a stand against England, how it served cultural and aesthetic purposes in John Steinbeck's writing, how Raymond Chandler used it in complex texts with less obvious Arthurian allusions that carried strong cultural and even political associations, how John Gardner used aspects of the myth to embellish already existing narrative structures and to underscore philosophic debates, and how Donald Barthelme suggests the continuing interest of American writers in the Arthurian legend today in his novels. Also discussed is the effect of World War II on American literature and the Arthurian myth and the Camelot image surrounding the Kennedys.
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Steinbecks Early Novels
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