Date Written

2018

Document Type

Honors Paper

Degree Name

English Literary Studies-BA

Department

English

Advisor

Dr. Patricia Frick

First Committee Member

Dr. Norman Chaney

Second Committee Member

Dr. Michele Acker

Keywords

King Arthur, Merlin, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wales

Subject Categories

Celtic Studies | Literature in English, British Isles | Medieval History | Medieval Studies

Abstract

Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae, Prophetiae Merlini, and Vita Merlini reimagine British history in an attempt to renegotiate the boundaries between English and Welsh culture. Through the figure of Merlin, Geoffrey co-opts key elements of Welsh culture as part of the larger Norman colonization effort. I argue that the effectiveness of Geoffrey’s colonization attempt lies in his embodiment of Welsh figures and his hybrid identity that allowed him to insert himself into the Welsh narrative and reconstruct it from within. I also argue that a reconsideration of Vita Merlini reveals a new dimension of Geoffrey’s colonial project. Merlin’s changing identity across these texts allows for a shifting of the Welsh from rightful sovereigns to "degenerate barbarians", and finally to an "uncivilized" but harmless wild populace existing on the periphery of English society. A combination of cultural criticism and elements of postcolonial studies shows that as Geoffrey carves out a new place for the Welsh within a larger English identity, he takes ownership of Arthurian legend away from the Welsh and places it in service of the Anglo-Normans.

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