The Armor Network: Medieval Prostheses and Degenerative Posthuman Bodies
By Raymund Papica
PhD Dissertation, University of California – Riverside, 2016
Abstract: By studying depictions of armor in The Canterbury Tales, Le Morte D’Arthur, and The Faerie Queene, and by seeing how these works help us understand medievalism in contemporary media, this dissertation investigates how armored bodies function as a way to think through the problematics of posthuman transformations. This project repositions the way in which premodern masculine identity was often predicated upon how bodies were constructed with, and connected to, multiple objects, nonhuman figures, and fluctuating interpretations of machinic evolution.
Furthermore, this study of armor is concerned with the degeneration of bodies damaged by war and contagion, as well as the instability and inadequacy of the body’s boundaries. Armor can be fragmented, assembled, and remixed with other armorial pieces and materials. Through an interdisciplinary approach, this project performs the task of tracing a longer history concerned with armored bodies, faulty ideologies, and technological anxieties. Studying the fictionalized use of armored bodies across literary history pushes us to question the results of technological augmentation. Each chapter studies the processes in which a body transforms into an armored posthuman. Armor, this project argues, can be thought of as part of a posthuman assemblage that collects and develops various narrative strands about prosthetic transformations.
Introduction: Studying the fictionalized use of armored bodies across literary history pushes our understanding of individual bodies as multiple bodies, and it makes us question the consequences of technological augmentation in our contemporary world, positioning these developments as part of a much longer cultural fascination with heroic masculinity, knightly armor, and what Katherine Biddick describes as “cyborg history,” a history marked by “temporal disjunctures, its spatial commensurabilities, and the material hybridity of its historical desire.”