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Merlin: Knowledge and Power Through the Ages (Book Review)

Mythlore 2011, Spring-Summer, 29, 3-4

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MERLIN: KNOWLEDGE AND POWER THROUGH THE AGES. Stephen Knight. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009. xvii + 275pp. $27.95. ISBN 9780801443657. TRUE TO ITS REFRESHINGLY LUCID TITLE, THIS STUDY surveys the character of Merlin through artistic and cultural history, and posits a thematic consistency to his portrayals. Arthurian literature's oldest and possibly most iconic persona, and likely the world's most famous Cymro as well, he is investigated by Cardiff University's Distinguished Research Professor of English Literature Stephen Knight, whose first book on Arthurian cultural history was Arthurian Literature and Society (1983), and who demonstrated his approach to long-term character study with Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography (2003). Like Robin Hood, Merlin is something of an anomaly among medieval figures in that he continues in the modern day to be more often fictionalized than analyzed; there are surprisingly few serious, full-length, and up-to-date studies dedicated to the wizard-cum-prophet (for lack of a better catch-all), especially in comparison with the likes of Arthur himself, Beowulf, Roland/Orlando, and, to a lesser extent, Merlin's fellow Arthurian-adoptee Tristan. The book-jacket endorsement by Alan Lupack claims that Merlin "should become the standard resource on the well-known wizard"--a weighty compliment when one considers how substantial an outline to literature on Merlin can be found in Lupack's Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend (2005). Knight presents his material most often in terms of a continuing story, and occasionally as a myth, though the distinction is never quite clear. One assumes that, by the latter, Knight is referring to the mythos of Merlin, which--as opposed to the entire corpus of often-contradictory developments and retellings--might be defined as the eclectic core-story of the character, composed of reconcilable elements from texts usually but not always deemed canonical.

Merlin: Knowledge and Power Through the Ages (Book Review)
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  • 2,99 €
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: 22 March 2011
  • Publisher: Mythopoeic Society
  • Print Length: 9 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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