The panel reads the penultimate idyll, “Guinevere”, last of the original 1859 collection, and focuses on the redemptive arc of the queen, passing from recognition of her sin and fear of shame into pursuit of the pure and the good for its own sake.
The panel reads the second part of the story of Sir Pelleas, “The Last Tournament”, with its contrast between white innocence and red blood, its manifold inversions of the Arthurian court, and its connexion to the real-life Eglinton Tournament of 1839.
The panel reads “Pelleas and Ettare” and questions whether Arthur overprotects Sir Pelleas, considering the implications for the court, whilst also examining Tennyson’s psychologising of Ettare, and the potential dangers of a too-idealistic worldview.
The panel discusses the dispersal of the Round Table in “The Holy Grail”, the conflict between the Common Good of the realm and the individual knights’ quests for the Absolute Good, and the experiences of Gawain, Bors, Lancelot, Perceval, and Galahad.
Moving into the second half of the Idylls, the panel reads “Lancelot and Elaine”, one of the most beloved poems in the cycle, contrasting Guinevere with Elaine and Lancelot with Gawain, and reading Arthur as a messianic, interpretive mirror of the court.
The panel reads the poem that serves as the hinge in the cycle of the Idylls, “Merlin and Vivien”, looking at how Vivien uses manipulation, dissemblance, and falsehood to achieve her ends, and considering the natural ends of the law and the state.
The panel reads the last-composed of the Idylls, “Balin and Balan”, with attention to the tale’s depiction of the conflict between the Old Order and the New Order, the origin and proliferation of rumour and scandal, and the use of shadow as metaphor.
The panel reads “Enid and Geraint”, the second part of the Enid tale and the fourth of the Idylls, with attention to the opposite perils of decadence and bestiality, the significance of personal redemption, and the firm strength of Tennyson’s women.
In this third part of the Idylls of the King, the panel reads “The Marriage of Geraint”, originally the first half of “Enid”, with attention to Tennyson’s use of narrative quoting and foreshadowing, and his depiction of knightly masculinity.
In the second Idylls of the King episode, the panel reads “Gareth and Lynette”, with special attention to Gareth’s demonstration of chivalry through action, the text’s presentation of nobilty as essential to knightliness, and Bellicent’s characterisation.
The panel begins a twelve-week series covering the entirety of Tennyson’s Arthurian cycle, Idylls of the King, beginning with the cycle’s publishing history and formal characteristics, and readings of the dedication and “The Coming of Arthur”.
The Waste Land series concludes with readings and analysis of the final two parts–“Death by Water” and “What the Thunder Said”–with special attention to the biblical and grail quest imagery, the Wheel of Fortune, and contrasting aquatic extremes.