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Title: The Tristan legend, 1804-1914
Author: Wylie, N. V.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3573 5785
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1973
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The thesis traces the emergence and development of the Tristan legend during the 19th century as a subject for both scholarly research and creative reinterpretfktion, the latter being ultimately dependent on the former. In addition, a context of 19th century Arthurian literature is included, together with a discussion of the growth of studies in mediaeval literature. As Tristan scholarship declined in England due attention has been paid to its Continental development. After a consideration of the unique qualities of the legend and a summary of current scholarly ideas on its development, the thesis continues with an enquiry into the state of mediaeval studies at the beginning of the 19th century, out of which arose Scott's edition of Sir Tristrem. The genesis of this work is traced as an example of contemporary academic method, and is followed by an overall view of British and French scholarship in the first half of the century, including the work of Southey, Guest and la Villermarqué, who provided source material for Tennyson, Arnold and the Pre-Raphaelites. From the early Continental work with its developing Celtic affiliations came Arnold's Tristram and Iseult. This forme the subject of the third chapter and is set against a background of nascent Arthurian literature in England, which mostly drew on previous English scholarship for material. The poem is seen as an uneasy work originating from unfamiliar subject matter on the one hand, and Arnold's recoil from Marguerite on the other. The artistry of the work, its revisions and contemporary reception are discussed, and it is finally seen as remaining outside the mainstream of Arthurian literature, but having affinities with the later Pre-Raphaelite ethos. The more usual moralistic attitudes adopted towards the Arthurian legend are discussed in Chapter IV, where the antithetical heroes of Lancelot and Galahad are seen as the heroes of the mid-century. Tennyson's Idylls of the King is then considered as a reflection and development of those attitudes, thus illuminating his treatment of the Tristan story in 'The Last Tournament'. After dealing with the genesis of the Idylls and the 1859 aud 1869 publications, the chapter continues with a consideration Of 'The Last Tournament' from its inception in the draft of the Gareth Idyll to its cool reception in 1872. Tennyson's treatment of Malory, the significance of the Idyll in relation to the overall conception and as analysis of its structural and symbolic qualities are included. Swinburne's Tristram of Lyonesse is seen in the following chapter as embodying the Pre-Raphaelite revolt against this interpretation of the Arthurian material. It is prefigured in Queen Yseult and the early fragments, where is also seen Swinburne's concern with an accurate representation of the sources, together with the stylistic influence of Morris. The prolonged composition of Tristram of Lyonesse, contemporary reaction, Swinburne's use of sources and a discussion of the artistic anomaly this creates within the poem, lead up to a comparison with Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Chapter VI begins with an examination of English scholarship and current attitudes to Malory which anticipated the Wagnerite reaction against Gottfried's Tristan. It then continues with a survey of the academic enthusiasm for Tristan on the Continent, tracing its progress from the work of Bossert to that of Bédier and Schoepperle. As the Tristan legend was thus established academically, so it came to be established on a creative level. The coinciding of Wagner's Tristan and the new cultural mood saw an outcrop of Tristan re-workings which reflect the Aesthetic climate in their Wagner-based projections of transcendental passion. This, together with a discussion of the backward-looking Arthurian dramas, is the subject of chapter VII. Finally, the last chapter summarizes ths emergence of the legend in three forms: the academic form, the popular narrative form and lastly, through the Wagner enthusiasm, as a symbol of rarefied passion. It also considers 19th century attitudes towards the romantic Middle Ages in conjunction with the artistic flaws which occur in mediaevalistic works of the period.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available