Call for Papers for Does the Matter of Britain (Still) Matter?: Reflections on the State of Arthurian Studies Today (A Roundtable)

Call for Papers for Does the Matter of Britain (Still) Matter?: Reflections on the State of Arthurian Studies Today (A Roundtable)

51st Annual Convention of the Northeast Modern Language Association

Boston Marriott Copley Place, in Boston, Massachusetts, from 5-8 March 2020

Paper abstracts are due by 30 September 2019

Session organized by Michael A. Torregrossa, The Alliance for the Promotion of Research on the Matter of Britain

The Arthurian legend is now over a millennium and a half old and continues to inspire new creative works each year. However, texts with widespread distribution and/or lasting impact are rare. Consequently, the Matter of Britain now often seems very distant from our daily lives. The purpose of this session is to explore the reasons for this separation of the stories of Arthur from the popular consciousness.

In conceiving this session, we are interested in exploring the answers to several questions. First, why has the Matter of Britain—once an important part of what J. R. R. Tolkien has termed “the cauldron of story”—now become something that is sampled by few artists with the means to promote their work to the larger segment of the global population that once devoured such stories with enthusiasm? Continuing with this idea, do these works, when noticed, not receive acclaim simply because of their creators’ failure to overcome what Norris J. Lacy has termed the “tyranny of tradition” and produce something that is both recognizable and innovative, or has the legend truly become a niche brand, a fascination to a few cognoscenti but something totally off the radar of most individuals? Similarly, when versions of the legend are produced by individuals with the means to create something that transcends the financial and distributive restrictions that hold back other works (and that might thus have the potential to shape how the current generation perceives the Arthurian story), why do they so often not succeed? Have these creators also simply failed to negotiate the tyranny of tradition, or are audiences at large just not interested in Arthur and all that he represents anymore? Lastly, if the legend no longer appeals, what is the future of Arthurian Studies (and Arthurian scholars) in the remainder of the twenty-first century? Should we entrench ourselves and hope for the best, or can we fight for our field and the glory that was Camelot?

This session is a roundtable, in which 3-10 participants give brief, informal presentations (5-10 minutes) and the session is open to conversation and debate between participants and the audience.

The direct link for this session is Please contact the organizers at with any questions or concerns.


Abstract submissions must be made through NeMLA’s official site. Applicants will need to login or create an account at Submissions must begin with a paper title of not more than 100 characters (including spaces) and adhering to the following: capitalize titles by MLA formatting rules unless the title is in a language other than English; do not use quotation marks in the session title or abstract title itself but please use only single quotation marks around titles of short stories, poems, and similar short works; italicize the titles of long works mentioned in the paper title; and do not place a period at the end of the title. Submissions should also include an academic biography (usually transferred from your NeMLA profile) and a paper abstract of not more than 300 words; be sure to italicize or use quotation marks around titles according to MLA guidelines.

Please be aware that NeMLA membership is not required to submit abstracts, but it is required to present at the convention. In addition, note that it is permissible to present on (1) a panel (or seminar) and (2) a roundtable or a creative session, but it is not permissible to present on a panel and a seminar (because both are paper-based), on two panels or two roundtables (because both would be the same type). Further information on these and other policies can be accessed at

Chairs will confirm the acceptance of abstracts before 15 October 2019. At that time, applicants must confirm the panel on which they wish to participate. Convention registration/membership for 2019-2020 must be paid by 1 December 2019.

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