Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Death (and Paroxysms) of Arthurian Studies

No one is reading or listening or paying any attention.

So why bother at all?

What am I talking about?  The death and death-throes of the field of Arthurian Studies,

This was once a serious academic pursuit.  Well, okay, it was serious among a certain number of fringe scholars.  But with the advent of the WWW, and the neopagan movement, and the Age of Misinformation, in which belief without discriminatory faculties or knowledge or wisdom has run amok, and trolls reign supreme, any serious attempt to explore the possibility of a historical Arthur has been buried under an avalanche of ignorance and absurdities.  Honest, objective, respectable scholarship has gone by the wayside. To quote Montaigne, "Nothing is so firmly believed as what is least known."

I'm suspending my own researches into the subject of a historical Arthur.  Why?  Because no matter how logically or rationally I approach the problem, either no one cares, no one listens or, perhaps even worse, my own material is co-opted by the unqualified and/or the deranged.

As we have very little evidence for the historical Arthur - nay, one might say we have none at all - everyone with a preconceived belief about him is free to promote any nonsensical theory.  And there are so many of the latter that any reasonable approach is quickly drowned out in the noise. Sensationalism, conspiracy and the like is all that matters nowadays.  That is the true currency of our modern era.

A good example of what I'm talking about: every time I post an article on my own conclusions, the only comments that are appended are by those espousing their own radically opposing and poorly argued views.  Within a very short time, any thread I initiate is totally commandeered, and the carefully crafted ideas I had put forth are buried under an onslaught of dribble produced by biased, undisciplined and often completely irrational individuals.

I long ago quit Arthuriana's Arthurnet because this was happening.  Since I left that group, Arthurnet has ceased to exist for the very reasons I have expressed in this blog post.  I attempted to promote my theories on Facebook groups.  The reception there was unexpectedly cold and unpleasant.  After being "banned" from all groups save one, for no other reason, it would seem, other than my making available blog posts, I came to realize that there was no hope for civilized discourse or productive debate in this medium.  Nothing has happened in recent months to change my mind about this fact, and, indeed, I've decided to stop banging my head against the brick wall of ignorance and pre-conceived belief  and to bow out once and for all.  I no longer wish to continue to waste my time and energy on trying to promote my own balanced views to an, in the main,  unbalanced public.

It is for this reason that I wish you all a fond farewell. For those of you who DO CARE about what I've produced over the years, I thank you with all my heart.  You are a rarity in this time of unreasonableness. I may, at some point, re-enter the arena of fiction writing in the Arthurian genre, but for now, like most of us, I must seek other more profitable work in order to contribute to my family's welfare,


  1. Dear August, your post saddens me, though I do understand where you are coming from. The Arthurian academic community is shrinking, and, I'll admit, heading in academic directions I find less than helpful. As well as obscuring the debate in a lot of vague jargon.
    Before you abandon your projects altogether, could I suggest that you might find it helpful to try posting your works on sites like ResearchGate and academia.edu. I have joined both as a member if the NAB/IAS, and have published several Arthurian papers on both sites. I've achieved many more reads there, than the few requests I've had for copies after I've presented them at conferences. You can check out my postings there, on these sites:
    RG is also a good place to post questions and open up subjects for debate.
    Just a thought, but feel free to get in touch if you have any questions through those sites or Google+.

    1. Thank you for that, Kathy. I was on academia.edu for a couple years. Didn't help in the least in terms of exposing my views to a broader audience. Chiefly, I suspect, because I'm not a professional academic, but a so-called 'independent scholar.' I may continue posting old material now and again. Will not be pursuing new research. Good luck to you in your own continuing Arthurian Quest.

    2. I understand, August. I'm not a professional academic, either, and am very aware of the 'class' division. And as an outsider, I'm also aware of certain critical factors that have led to a significant decline in the quality of much of the academic work coming out now - the push to ultra-specialise, and the need to publish ready or not. You might enjoy this book review (click the Full Text box), which is the only piece I've had formally published.
      If it's any consolation, I only really got going with my work when I retired a few years ago. Very liberating. Trouble is, my focus is being torn three ways, Arthur, Ancient History, and writing Fantasy - My own series and an Arthurian series retelling the Old French tradition based on multiple sources.
      Good luck, wherever your needs and interests take you.

  2. Sad to see you go.

    The problem with Arthur is that there is so little, if any, solid fact that imaginative writers are at liberty to re-construct any sort of Arthurian recipe they wish; take a spoonful of Geoffrey of Monmouth, mix briskly with a dash of Old Welsh poetry and top with a sprinkling from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, stir until the plot thickens and bingo we have identified the 'Real King Arthur' - again!

    I enjoy your blog. In fact I've followed your work since I first came across 'Faces of Arthur' on the Vortigern Studies website. Always worth reading with some interesting suggestions - makes one think and certainly raises many leads for further investigation. I've read your comments on Arthurnet and sadly witnessed the demise of that Arthurian forum. Arthurian blogs / forums do seem to be a disappearing art just lately. But is it dead? NO - NEVER!

    Whereas, I am more of an advocate of a mythical Arthur, I have most of your books and hope you continue to write about Arthur.

    Best wishes for the future

    1. Appreciate that very much, Ed. What comes to mind is a noted critic's discussion of the recent Guy Ritchie Arthur film. In it, he claimed as one of the reasons for the movie's failure a modern lack of interest in (or, indeed, lack of knowledge of) the Arthurian story. This was sad to hear. Still, I feel he is right about this. It is the generation of Snapchat and Marvel Comic movies, after all. We Arthur fans are dinosaurs. Used to complain about the Old Guard, i.e. the long-established scholars who insisted Arthur never existed. Now even those who do hold that he existed are soon to become extinct. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

      The distinction between a mythical vs. a historical personage is a recent one. There is no doubt that mythical elements were present in Arthur's story from the beginning (his very name/title, drawn from that of a river in Wales, is proof of that!). They accumulated layer by layer in subsequent centuries. So I don't think it's accurate to say either that he was historical or mythical. He was instead, both. But that gain is merely my "theory", which no one will pay any attention to if it causes them any discomfiture or cognitive dissonance.

      It is some consolation to know that some people such as yourself are going to keep on with the good fight. This grizzled warrior has seen too many campaigns. Time for me to retire more or less gracefully.