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The Legend of King Arthur: Separating Fact from Fiction
The story of King Arthur has captivated audiences for centuries. From the sword in the stone to the Knights of the Round Table, it’s a tale that has been retold countless times in books, movies, and even television shows. But how much of it is true? In this article, we’ll dive into the history behind the legend and separate fact from fiction.
The Historical King Arthur
While there is no concrete evidence to prove that King Arthur actually existed, there are a few historical figures that may have inspired his character. One such figure is Ambrosius Aurelianus, a Romano-British war leader who fought against invading Saxon armies in the late 5th century. Another potential inspiration is Artorius Castus, a Roman military commander who led troops in Britain during the 2nd century.
However, it’s important to note that these figures are not definitively linked to the King Arthur legend. The earliest known written reference to King Arthur comes from a Welsh poem called “Y Gododdin,” which was written around 600 AD. The poem mentions a warrior named Arthur who fought alongside other warriors at the Battle of Catraeth.
The Legend of Excalibur
One of the most iconic elements of the King Arthur story is his sword, Excalibur. According to legend, Excalibur was given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake after he proved himself worthy by pulling it from a stone. However, this version of events does not appear in any early written versions of the story.
In fact, some historians believe that Excalibur may have been inspired by another legendary sword: Caladbolg. Caladbolg was said to be wielded by Irish hero Fergus mac Róich and was rumored to be so powerful that it could cut through solid rock.
Knights of the Round Table
The Knights of the Round Table are another iconic element of the King Arthur legend. According to the story, Arthur gathered his most trusted knights around a round table to symbolize equality and fairness. While there is no historical evidence to support the existence of the Knights of the Round Table, it’s possible that they were inspired by real medieval knights.
In medieval times, knights were expected to follow a strict code of chivalry that emphasized honor, bravery, and loyalty. These ideals are reflected in many versions of the King Arthur story and may have contributed to the creation of the Knights of the Round Table.
The Legacy of King Arthur
Despite the lack of concrete evidence surrounding King Arthur’s existence, his legend continues to inspire people today. From literature and art to movies and television shows, his story has been retold countless times in countless ways.
Perhaps one reason for this enduring popularity is that at its core, the King Arthur story is about leadership, heroism, and sacrifice. Whether he was a real person or not, his legacy lives on as a symbol of these timeless virtues.
While much of the King Arthur legend may be based on fiction rather than fact, there is no denying its enduring appeal. From Excalibur to the Knights of the Round Table, this tale has captured imaginations for centuries. Whether you believe in his existence or not, there’s no denying that King Arthur remains one of history’s most fascinating figures.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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The essay film after fact and fiction.
Nora M. Alter
Columbia University Press
Pub Date: January 2018
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For many years, Nora Alter has been our most brilliant advocate of the essay film as an open genre that floats between documentary, fiction, and the art film. The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction is the first comprehensive survey of this difficult and experimental genre in both its historical context and variable aesthetic manifestations. The depth and complexity of Alter’s account of the essay film’s critical force and aesthetic innovations will not soon be surpassed. D. N. Rodowick, Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago
This magisterial study marks a milestone in scholarship on the most intellectually expansive and unpredictable film genre of the last half-century. Global in scope, Alter’s book displays the essay film's astonishing richness of forms and functions from its beginnings in the 1920s to contemporary art installations. Both a reliable history and a sharp-eyed investigation, The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction is indispensable for anyone interested in the past and future of nonfiction cinema. Anton Kaes, University of California, Berkeley
The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction is unfailingly lucid, balanced, and informed. Alter provides generous and illuminating analyses of specific films, filmmakers, and decisive shifts in the arts and media history. Her book is a definitive guide to the multiple modes of production and global contexts of a vital tradition that continues to enrich contemporary culture and nurture critical thought. Edward Dimendberg, University of California, Irvine
The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction deepens the reader’s understanding of the history, aesthetics, and politics of its subject. Josh Guilford, Film Quarterly
This book is invaluable for its scope and depth; the sheer number of films and filmmakers considered makes it an indispensable resource. Choice
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The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction (Film and Culture)
Nora M. Alter reveals the essay film to be a hybrid genre that fuses the categories of feature, art, and documentary film. Like its literary predecessor, the essay film draws on a variety of forms and approaches; in the process, it fundamentally alters the shape of cinema. The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction locates the genre's origins in early silent cinema and follows its transformation with the advent of sound, its legitimation in the postwar period, and its multifaceted development at the turn of the millennium. In addition to exploring the broader history of the essay film, Alter addresses the innovative ways contemporary artists such as Martha Rosler, Isaac Julien, Harun Farocki, John Akomfrah, and Hito Steyerl have taken up the essay film in their work.
About the Author
Nora M. Alter is professor of comparative film and media studies in the School of Theater, Film, and Media Arts at Temple University. She is author of Vietnam Protest Theatre: The Television War on Stage (1996); Projecting History: German Nonfiction Cinema, 1967-2000 (2002); and Chris Marker (2006). She is also coeditor with Timothy Corrigan of Essays on the Essay Film (Columbia, 2017).
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Nora M. Alter, The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction . Rick Warner, Godard and the Essay Film: A Form That Thinks
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Yelizaveta Goldfarb Moss, Nora M. Alter, The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction . Rick Warner, Godard and the Essay Film: A Form That Thinks , Screen , Volume 60, Issue 4, Winter 2019, Pages 634–637, https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/hjz045
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‘Essay film’ is a notoriously slippery term that denotes both subjectivity and non-fiction, both experimental filmmaking techniques and critique of form. Several outstanding twenty-first-century monographs have already carefully categorized the genre of ‘essay films’ while acknowledging the permeability and self-critique of any category that would pose to contain them. It is no wonder that both Nora M. Alter’s and Rick Warner’s new books largely set aside the question of category in order to focus on the far more permeable forms that essay films have taken most recently.
Alter has already contributed much to this established question of ‘essay film’ definition. In fact the introduction to her latest book, The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction , feels like an addendum to her introduction to Essays on the Essay Film , a 2017 anthology in which she and Timothy Corrigan laid out a history of the literary essay as hybrid writing and compared it to the essay film’s hybridity of form and argumentative style. Her new book spends little time historicizing the connection of essay films to literary essays. Here the essay film has moved beyond its ‘essay’ tether and has taken on roots in its own medium. In place of extensive comparisons to literature and political philosophy, Alter emphasizes elements of the essay film that are unique to film: the collision of audio and visual information, collective art-making, and new digital options for production and distribution. Whereas some earlier analyses relied on Michel de Montaigne, György Lukacs and Theodor Adorno to legitimize the essay film, The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction finds forebears in Dada, Impressionist and city-symphony filmmakers and theorists. Thus the book rests on a history of avant-garde filmmaking, creating film-specificity in the argument that essay film interrogates form and makes filmmakers out of all artists.
Alter also largely avoids the classic argument that ‘essay film’ straddles the threshold between art film and documentary – the ‘zone of indeterminacy’, in Alter’s words (p. 21). This is where the book’s subtitle, After Fact and Fiction , serves as a guide to her analysis. If we focus less on how to categorize ‘essay film’ within existing genre parameters, the book seems to argue, we can reach a more fruitful understanding of how essay films can have such diversity in form, subject and exhibition practices. Given essay film’s roots in avant-garde filmmaking, Alter argues that the essential quality of essay film lies in its resistance to conventional means of making truth-claims, both in commercial fiction film and in documentary’s ‘unmediated’ objectivity. She sees this habit of questioning form in soundtrack and unreliable voiceover (Chapter 2, ‘Speaking essays or interruptions’), in self-reflection (Chapter 3, ‘The essay film as archive and repository of memories’) and in political commentary (Chapter 4, ‘The essay film as fourth estate’).
It is this very essence of resistance and questioning, reinforced in every chapter, that supports Alter’s claim in the second half of the book that postcolonial and diaspora essay film is not a supplement to the genre or an aberration in an otherwise western, Paris-centred experiment; rather, these essay films are the culmination, the very peak of ‘essay film’ form and subject. In Chapter 6, ‘New migrations’, she writes most extensively on Latin American filmmakers, including Margot Benacerraf, Fernando Solanas, Octavio Getino and Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, and diasporic projects, including those by British filmmakers Isaac Julien and John Akomfrah. Alter also takes care to widen the western circle of influence in earlier chapters, writing on Sergei Eisenstein’s Mexican production, Chris Marker’s ‘ethnographic’ films from Siberia, China and Israel, and Jonas Mekas’s exploration of Lithuania and its displaced immigrant communities.
Most interesting to this reviewer is Alter’s classification of video installations as ‘essay films’ in Chapter 5, ‘The artist essay’. Though some previous essay film texts have referenced video media as a new form of art-making in the digital age – most notably Scott MacDonald’s Avant-Doc 1 – Alter takes a radical stance here, arguing explicitly that essay film should be linked to conceptual art, which is necessarily ‘transmedial’ (p. 202). In this way she places video essays in galleries and museums, treating art institutions as natural extensions of other non-traditional exhibition spaces for experimental film. This move is not a complete surprise, given that Alter has already written extensively on Harun Farocki’s essay films, including his more recent video installation work, some of which are mentioned again in The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction . But the argument becomes even broader than installation work – Alter concludes the chapter on video with examples of essay films that evoke and question television formats, and closes the chapter on the internet with mention of audiovisual essays on YouTube and social media platforms. This perhaps signals the tease of another project on the horizon centring on the rising star in cinema studies, the academic video essay.
Rick Warner also places great emphasis on video technology and the digital turn in his analysis of Jean-Luc Godard’s essayistic oeuvre in Godard and the Essay Film: A Form that Thinks . Warner argues that use of a video mixer, even as early as 1974 with Here and Elsewhere , allowed for Godard to fulfil his ‘videographic thinking’, a Montaigne-like impulse towards self-critique, citations and viewer-oriented narration (p. 88). The ability to manipulate footage, especially through combination, and to insert manipulated footage into aperture frames on screen, allowed Godard to comment from within the image (through various forms of montage) as well as from without (through more traditional voiceover).
It is made clear in Godard and the Essay Film , through meticulous close readings of scenes and techniques, that Godard’s primary goal in his essay films is to establish a conversation with the viewer. Such a dialogue, where the viewer is asked to decode montaged connections, identify references and provide answers to posed scenarios, is understandably difficult and ultimately always unfinished. Warner emphasizes time and again that Godard’s essay films are thinking beings that continue to think beyond their conclusion, asking for revision and revisited historical connection.
Also unique to this book is the emphasis on co-filmmaking, bringing Anne-Marie Miéville’s voice into both Godard’s co-productions and into his solo-directed work. At times Miéville’s work is an independent voice, interacting with Godard’s through timed release dates; at times their work overlaps in co-directed projects; and, most interestingly, Warner shows how some co-productions will engage the viewer as ‘reader-friend’ in the Godard–Miéville dialogue towards a ‘shared language’ (p. 130). Warner is careful to show how Godard resists his auteur status by consistently referencing and speaking with other filmmakers and with the viewer, often becoming the viewer of his own works. This fits Warner’s rather narrow notion of ‘essay film’, which depends on personal filmmaking without the direct ‘I–You’ relationship often ascribed to essayist and reader. For Warner the roles of filmmaker and spectator are not fixed, and Godard’s essay films in particular point to the malleability of these roles.
Godard and the Essay Film ends by analysing the role of 3D in twenty-first-century essay films. It reinforces some of Warner’s earlier arguments: that essay films negate passive viewership, and that 3D stereoscopy, often considered a gimmick aligned with entertaining effects, has active potential for multiple arguments to be seen on top of one another. This sounds like hard processing work for the spectator, but as Warner carefully unpacks the stereoscoped levels of Godard’s The Three Disasters and Goodbye to Language , the multiplicity of argument that 3D technology allows starts to feel like the only way that film can address what he calls the failings of ‘our binocular gaze’ (p. 212).
At the end of both of these books, ‘essay film’ is no longer a way of historicizing uncategorizable, Paris-centred, subjective documentaries. Rather the ‘essay film’ form becomes the most appropriate and timely way to tell personal, political, philosophical stories through a self-reflective voice – a type of story that converses best with our very video-fluent and self-aware audiences today.
1 Scott MacDonald, Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015).
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