Reading and Teaching Le Morte Darthur in the Light of Postcritique

Robert Evan Byers, Fordham University


This dissertation provides literary-theoretical and pedagogical approaches to Thomas Malory’s fifteenth-century Arthurian text Le Morte Darthur in terms of a burgeoning discourse of postcritique within literary studies. Postcritique is conceptualized as a complementary and alternative methodological disposition to more familiar forms of critique that currently inhere within contemporary humanities departments. As such, the general aim of the project is to approach literary analysis in unorthodox ways. To do so, I first utilize Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory to examine the characterological subjectivity of mounted knights in the Morte, arguing that working with horses creates a hybridized subjectivity that is something more than human. I then turn to Rita Felski’s discussion of enchanted reading in order to locate both knights and readers within connected networks of enchantment, suggesting that Malory may be fruitfully viewed as anticipating certain developments in postcritical theory and is able to teach us about affective states that inhere in the reading-hermeneutical process. Finally, I expand this focus on teaching by entering into ongoing discussion regarding the theory and practice of postcritical pedagogy, proposing a set of classroom exercises around the Morte based on affect, enchantment, and hope. The project thus suggests that postcritical engagement with Malory’s text can assist us in clarifying and refining our theoretical and practical positions vis-à-vis the ongoing “method debates” within literary studies, and further, that it offers us intriguing possibilities for postcritical reading and teaching practices.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature|Medieval literature

Recommended Citation

Byers, Robert Evan, "Reading and Teaching Le Morte Darthur in the Light of Postcritique" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI30487951.