Displaced Persons: Readers, Love, Death, and Commemoration

  • Catherine Batt
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The celebration of Arthurian chivalric cohesion through the healing of Sir Urry declares embodiment the site of chivalric value, and Urry’s partial imitation of Gareth articulates a faith in Arthurian narrative, but the episode also suggests that the Arthurian tales, “rehearsed” in parvo in the roll call of the knights, find coherence, not (as in the French romances) by virtue of their juxtaposition in a fully authorized narrative, or through their replication of similar trajectories, but primarily through an unexplained act of grace. The Urry episode reassuringly remakes the chivalric and Arthurian body, but this ritual remaking is in tension with the suggestive image of the weeping Launcelot, which detail problematically constitutes the means to our apprehension of the hero’s selfhood. The terms of our narrative engagement with this episode make it impossible, then, for us to recuperate it as a straightforward divine endorsement of the Arthurian world. Other sequences in the post-Sankgreal section of the Morte invite further examination in terms of displacement and defamiliarization, even as they urge engagement and commemoration. The May passage, as we saw in the preface, intimates that the very tropes and readerly training that supposedly allow us access to the narrative will frustrate our sympathies. I want to use Chaucer’s Prologue to the Legend of Good Women as a specific reference point for examining Malory’s conceptualization, in the May passage, of Arthurian legend as a means to recognizing the difficulties of understanding the past in ways that can change or shape our present.


Roll Call Displace Person Funeral Rite Sexual Guilt Precious Stone 
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© Catherine Batt 2002

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  • Catherine Batt

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