Jack Litchfield

Jack Litchfield

IMS PG Researcher & Tutor

Summary: Medieval Chivalry; Middle English Romance; Medieval Bodies; Treatment of Wounds and Consideration of Age in Chivalric Culture.


After graduating from Goldsmiths College London in 2013 with a BA (hons) in History and the History of Ideas (First Class), I completed an MA in Medieval Studies (Distinction) at the University of Leeds with funding from the White Rose College of Arts and Humanities. I began my PhD at Leeds with continued WRoCAH funding in 2016.


I am interested in late medieval discourses of chivalric identity and the body, particularly as understood in Middle English chivalric romance. Literary attitudes to the knight often stress the recognizability of both chivalric body and character in relation to assumed ideas about bodily age, physical ability, and attractiveness. We can often identify the knight of Middle English romance because his body conforms to these physical categories: being young, beautiful, and athletic. Armour, too, is a factor: by turn accentuating and eliding this body, thereby complicating the role of physicality in determining what it is that makes the knight so recognisable a cultural figure.

My research aims to broaden the understanding of this relationship between body and identity in chivalric culture by exploring the places and predicaments in which the bodies of knights, and the chivalric identities they articulate, are brought into question. How does the effect that aging has upon the body inform the knight’s ability to perform in a role often reliant on youth and ability? Similarly, how might disfiguring wounds and the scars they leave behind compliment or contradict the body of the knight, which, in ideal, is to be read as both martially and aesthetically exemplary? And what, ultimately, is the status of the knight when his body is removed from the armour to which many of the most enduring images and ideas of knighthood are still wedded?

In answering these questions, I am conducting an interdisciplinary investigation of Middle English chivalric text and literature. I am focussing largely on romance, such as Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, which I am reading for instances of wounding, healing, forcible disarming, as well as representations of young and old chivalric bodies. Alongside romance, I am assessing the broader contemporary understanding of the relationship between knightly body and identity as it emerges in the chronicles, poetry, and didactic literature of fifteenth-century England.

Supervisors: Iona McCleery (Institute for Medieval Studies) and Catherine Batt (School of English).

Conference Activity


‘Proud Flesh: Wounding and Memory in Fifteenth-Century English Chivalric Culture’ International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds (Session 1346, 16:30-18:00, Wednesday 4 July 2018)


'Fight Like a Man: The Lost Youths of the Middle English Prose Merlin', Medieval Bodies Ignored: Politics, Culture and Flesh, University of Leeds (16:15-17:15, Friday 4 May 2018)

‘The Worth of “Olde Knyghtes Actes”: Reading for Old(er) Age in Fifteenth Century Middle English Texts’, New Historical Perspectives on Ageing and the Life Course, University of Leeds (Panel 5, 9:00-10:30, Tuesday 20 March 2018)

‘Empty of Blood, Full of Knighthood: Beholding Bleeding in Malory’s Morte Darthur’, Conference in War & Peace Studies, University of Leeds (15-16 June 2017)

Public Engagement

'The Knight As Shining Armour': public tour of the tournament gallery at the Royal Armouries, Leeds (April 21 11:00-13:00). Part of the Medieval Bodies Ignored/Obsessed event series. 


I am a Postgraduate Tutor on the undergraduate module 'HIST1090: Medieval & Renaissance Europe'.