Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Laura Howes

Committee Members

Mary E. Papke, Karen D. Levy, Joseph Trahern


In this study the presence and power of Morgan Ie Fay will be re-examined as an ever-shifting figure of alterity in both medieval and modern texts. Using cultural materialist studies, the character of Morgan will be examined against contemporary medieval culture in four medieval texts -- Vita Merlini, Layamon's Brut, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Le Morte Darthur -- that span the mid-twelfth to the late fifteenth-centuries. Her presence in the modern texts Gate of Ivrel and Mists of Avalon will be read against a feminist agenda, analyzing her increased visibility and voice in twentieth-century Arthuriana. Postmodern texts, such as Arthur Rex and Merlin, explore and exploit the transgressive nature of Morgan's otherness and focus on the darker humor that has been long neglected in the Matter of Britain. The film Excalibur, as well as other forms of popular culture, tum to the simplicity of allegorical characters and return to the Middle Ages for images of Morgan as an irrational, evil presence. The positive recuperation of Morgan Ie Fay, then, remains in the hands of fantasy writers, particularly feminist fantasy writers, who in their re-visioning of the Arthurian legend, provide Morgan Ie Fay and other female characters with a "literature of their own," a significant voice and presence in the Matter of Britain.

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