Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Elizabeth Sklar


This dissertation attempts to position Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur as a response to the anxieties of a turbulent social period. To start, I establish the political and social climate of fifteenth-century England, drawing on the work of historians to demonstrate the disequilibrium of communal institutions, particularly during the Wars of the Roses. Utilizing the work of Johan Huizinga I argue that the troubling political atmosphere of the period in question contributes to, and is reflected in, Malory's exploration of a narrative tradition that no longer maintains an authentic continuity to the past. Drawing on Pierre Nora's theoretical opposition between memory and history, I demonstrate how political instability and social change are accelerating a process whereby historical consciousness is replacing authentic memory, and it is this dynamic that energizes the Morte. Through close reading of the text, I argue that Malory turns nostalgically to the past in order to resist the corrosive influence of historical isolation, only to discover that his desire to resuscitate the past must acknowledge the fact that the past is lost.