Literary Criticism

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Knight Prisoner

Thomas Malory Then and Now

T.J. Lustig is Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities at Keele University, where he teaches on the MA in Creative Writing. He is the author of a novel, Doubled Up (1990) and a critical monograph, Henry James and the Ghostly (1994). He has written critical articles on Mark Twain, Matthew Arnold and Tim O’Brien.


In 1934, these were the lines which made the Librarian of Winchester College realize that he had discovered a hitherto unknown version of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, a work known to all previous readers only through Caxton’s 1485 edition. For it was known that Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel had been imprisoned on numerous occasions between the 1450s and his death in 1471 – by Lancastrians and Yorkists. But who was Malory? Why did successive authorities want to lock him up? How did he come to write the Morte d’Arthur? And why has that text been so persistent a presence in English culture? Going in quest of Malory and of the meaning of the Morte the author addresses the text’s central preoccupations – violence, desire, and the nature of Englishness. Malory is placed in his social context, at a time of unprecedented national and regional unrest. Lustig traces the connections between writers and commentators – from Tennyson to T.S. Eliot – who have been fascinated by Malory’s work.

A prime purpose of the volume is to reveal the Morte’s extraordinary ability to move its readers intensely, to become part of their lives. Accordingly, the author delves into his own boyhood fascination with the stories of King Arthur, exploring their influence on him both then and now. The Morte d’Arthur was one of the last great literary works of the Middle Ages. But it was also one of the first to articulate a distinctively modern set of concerns – particularly with the nature of identity, both personal and national. Knight Prisoner: Thomas Malory Then and Now will send readers back to Malory’s work with renewed enjoyment and understanding.

Cover illustration: Thomas Malory identifies himself as a “knyght presoner”: a detail from the Winchester manuscript of the Morte d’Arthur. © The British Library Board. Add. MS 59678 (folio 70v).

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-605-9
Paperback Price: £16.95 / $24.95
Release Date: November 2013
Page Extent / Format: 224 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes




Part I
The Work

1 “Alas”
2 Smiting and Cleaving
3 Achieving
4 Kissing and Cipping
5 The Great Default
6 Being Launcelot
7 Pentecost

Part II
The Life

8 The Fat Book
9 Bricks without Straw
10 The Coal-Face
11 Watling Street
12 The Last Laugh
13 Connyng
14 Deliverance

Part III
The Afterlife

15 The Gulph of Oblivion
16 Rah! Rah! Ree!
17 The Waste Land
18 Allegorical and Parabolic
19 Eliot the Harper
20 Merry England
21 Style XXX



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