Mirror to the Soul: The Undead in Late Medieval Romance
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This thesis analyzes the role of undead figures in late medieval romance. Rather than focusing on the nature of the undead figures as representations of good or evil, this paper demonstrates that the undead characters of this period can be seen as more of mirrors to the living than as self-sustaining entities. This thesis explores three late medieval romances: The Awntyrs off Arthur, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Le Morte Darthur. These works can be read as a guide to understanding medieval people’s view of death as a reminder of one’s moral duty. In addition, these texts demonstrate that the undead function as markers of judgement on the living—symbols that force both characters and readers to take inventory of their flaws. The importance of the undead rests not in and of themselves, but in the living’s ability to correctly interpret the messages they bring.