Coconuts in Camelot: Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the Arthurian Literature Course
Neufeld, Christine M.
Florilegium, Volume 19 (2002)
Teaching Arthurian literature affords a perhaps rare opportunity for medieval specialists to use the medium of film to interest undergraduate students in a period that is otherwise often considered foreign to their cultural world or concerns. The significant number of Arthurian films in die twentieth century reflects the continuous appeal of the Arthurian legend, a legend whose survival can be attributed to its adaptability, shifting throughout the centuries between elite and popular cultures, and disseminated in different forms through visual, oral and textual traditions. While there has always been a ludic dimension to Arthurian tradition, one postmedieval comédie portrayal of Arthur and his knights, Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in Kitig Arthur’s Court, has had a significant impact on how Arthurian material has been adapted on the silver screen. One possible consequence of Twain’s comic vision and its early transposition into the newly emerging film medium is that, while Bresson’s brooding tale of Arthurian ennui may be the hallmark of the twentieth-century cinematic Arthurian corpus, the film that has come to represent the Round Table’s cinematic incarnation in the minds of the generations that now fill the postsecondary classroom is Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a comic masterpiece that embodies the spirit of Twain’s dismissive coinage, “holy grailing.”