‘Many a story is but a crooked way to the truth’?
Lessons from the Past as Truths for the Present in a Selection of Arthurian Young Adult Disaster Fictions
The myth of King Arthur has been used for many purposes. In post-disaster fiction for young adults, the Arthurian myth has been drawn upon by a number of authors to advocate unity and equality as major factors in creating a just and peaceful world. This article focuses on seven texts set after major global disaster caused by human action has devastated, or is threatening to devastate, the world of the implied present-day reader. The texts for discussion are Ron Langenus’ Merlin’s Return; Janice Elliott’s The King Awakes and The Empty Throne; and Pamela Service’s Winter of Magic’s Return, Tomorrow’s Magic, Yesterday’s Magic, and Earth’s Magic. Although King Arthur is portrayed differently by the three authors, he is presented as a figurehead of unity and peace in all of the texts, and the texts all transpose contemporary values held by the implied author and the implied reader onto what the texts present as ‘King Arthur’s time’, in order to suggest that greed, selfishness, and lust for power contributed to the destruction of King Arthur’s society, and are also threatening to destroy the world of the implied reader. Drawing upon Foucault’s concept of the regime of truth, this article demonstrates that the forms of the Arthurian myth used in the texts for discussion are, however, inherently gendered and nationalistic, and thus subvert the ideas of equality and unity that the texts seek to present.
Armstrong D (2003) Gender and the Chivalric Community in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, University Press of Florida.
Aronstein S (1995). ‘“Not Exactly a Knight”: Arthurian Narrative and Recuperative Politics in the “Indiana Jones” Trilogy’, Cinema Journal, 34(4):3-30, https://doi.org/10.2307/1225575
‘Body Politic’ Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/body%20politic Accessed 15 September 2023.
Bradford C (2015) The Middle Ages in Children’s Literature, Palgrave Macmillan.
Braithwaite E (2007) Young Adult Post-Disaster Fiction: Exploration of a Genre, University of Melbourne, PhD thesis.
----- (2010) ‘Post-disaster Fiction for Young Adults: Some Trends and Variations’, Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, 20(1):5-19, https://doi.org/10.21153/pecl2010vol20no1art1148
Chase-Dunn C and Lawrence KS (2011) ‘The Next Three Futures, Part One: Looming Crises of Global Inequality, Ecological Degradation, and a Failed System of Global Governance’, Global Society, 25(2):137-153, https://doi.org/10.1080/13600826.2011.553525
Davidson D (1996) ‘The Folly of Trying to Define Truth’, The Journal of Philosophy, 93(6):263-278, https://doi.org/10.2307/2941075
Dawson G (2005) ‘Trauma, Place and the Politics of Memory: Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972–2004’, History Workshop Journal, 59(1):151-178, https://doi.org/10.1093/hwj/dbi013
De Groot J (2009) The Historical Novel, Routledge.
Dryzek JS, Honig B and Phillips A (2006) ‘Introduction’, in Dryzek JS, Honig B and Phillips A (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory, http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/60758
Elliott J (1987) The King Awakes, Walker.
----- (1988) The Empty Throne, Walker.
Fernandez J (2009) ‘An Exploration of the Meaning of Truth in Philosophy and Law’, University of Notre Dame Australia Law Review, 11:53-83.
Foucault M, trans. Gordon C (1980) ‘Truth and Power’ in Gordon C (ed) Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, Pantheon Books.
Fulton H (2009) ‘Introduction: Theories and Debates’, in Fulton H (ed) A Companion to Arthurian Literature, Wiley-Blackwell.
Glazer JI (1986) ‘Nuclear Holocaust in Contemporary Children's Fiction: A Surprising Amount of Agreement’, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 11(2), 85-88, https://doi.org/10.1353/chq.0.0360
Gaskin R (2013) Language, Truth, and Literature: A Defence of Literary Humanism, Oxford University Press.
Gruner ER (2009) ‘Teach the Children: Education and Knowledge in Recent Children's Fantasy’, Children’s Literature, 37(1): 216-235, https://doi.org/10.1353/chl.0.0815
Hillel M (2003) ‘“A Little Child Shall Lead Them”: The Child as Redeemer’, in McGillis R (ed) Children’s Literature and the Fin-de-Siecle, Greenwood Press.
The Jerusalem Bible (1971) Chapman.
Johns A (2010) Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale, Peter Lang.
Kellogg J (2003) ‘Introduction’, Arthuriana, 13(2):1-8. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27870512
Knight S (2012) ‘King Arthur: Myth and Politics’, Arena Magazine, 119:38-42, doi/10.3316/ielapa.334278060386984
Langenus R, trans Horsmann Delmonte NC (1993) Merlin’s Return, Wolfhound Press.
Liu T, Geng, L, Ye L and Zhou K (2019) ‘“Mother Nature” Enhances Connectedness to Nature and Pro-Environmental Behavior’, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 61:37-45, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2018.12.003
McIntyre L (2018) Post-Truth, The MIT Press.
Nelson C (2014) ‘Transmitting Ethics through Books of Golden Deeds for Children’ in Mills C (ed) Ethics and Children’s Literature, Ashgate.
Oosterom S (2022) ‘Walid Raad: The Art of Fiction in a Post-Truth World’, REFLEKTİF Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 3(2):253-268, doi.org/10.47613/reflektif.2022.69
Peregrin J (1999) ‘Tarski’s Legacy (Introductory Remarks)’ in Peregrin J (ed) Truth and Its Nature (if Any), Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Power C (2003) ‘Challenging the Pluralism of Our Past: Presentism and the Selective Tradition in Historical Fiction Written for Young People’, Research in the Teaching of English, 37(4):425-466, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40171599
Pugh T (2003) ‘Marginal Males, Disciplined Daughters, and Guinevere’s Adultery in “A Kid in King Arthur’s Court”’, Arthuriana, 13(2):69-84, http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/art.2003.0013
Ricken N (2006) ‘The Power of Power—Questions to Michel Foucault’, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 38(4):541-560, doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-5812.2006.00210.x
Said E (1978) Orientalism, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.
Service P (2007) Tomorrow’s Magic, Yearling.
----- (2008) Yesterday’s Magic, Yearling.
----- (2009) Earth's Magic, Yearling.
Stephens J (1992a) Language and Ideology in Children’s Fiction, Longman.
----- (1992b) ‘Post-Disaster Fiction: The Problematics of a Genre’, Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, 3(3):126-130.
Wallace D (2013) Female Gothic Histories: Gender, History and the Gothic, University of Wales Press.
White TH (1939) The Sword in the Stone, Collins.
----- (1958) The Once and Future King, Putnam.