Networking the March
: the literature of the Welsh Marches, c. 1180–c. 1410

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is an examination of the cultural and political climate of the medieval Welsh Marches. The investigation is structured around three case studies: Hereford, c. 1180–c. 1210; Ludlow, c. 1310–c. 1350; Cwm Tawe, c. 1380–c. 1410. Using these three case studies, the thesis develops a critique of the core-periphery model that has dominated modern conceptualisations of medieval political and cultural geographies. In its place, I formulate an alternative model based on an engagement with social theories of the network, including Manuel Castells’s ‘network society’ and, in particular, Bruno Latour’s work on ‘actor-network theory’. Reading with networks might, I contend, provide a new, more ethical interpretative model, one capable of restoring cultural and political agency to erstwhile ‘peripheral’ regions. The first chapter traces the multifarious textual networks in which the three case-study locales were active: it thereby identifies the corpus of the following three chapters (i.e. the texts circulated, composed, copied, or translated in each locale), and situates them in their manuscript contexts. The second chapter develops ‘networked’ readings of the texts themselves: I analyse the ways in which the texts position their local environments in relation to the global networks described in their narratives, such that they not only disprove the ‘peripheral’ status ascribed to the Marches, but more searchingly question the validity of the model that produces such ascriptions. Chapters 3 and 4 take a thematic approach, using networks to analyse the political modalities of the texts’ representations of nonhuman agency (Chapter 3) and of issues surrounding language, translation, and multilingualism (Chapter 4). Chapter 5 opens up the corpus to investigate representations of the Welsh Marches in Arthurian literature: I suggest that not only do the Marches emerge as highly connected regions, but that Arthurian literature more fundamentally imagines a networked model of political and cultural geography. The thesis concludes by turning to the Hereford mappa mundi as a succinct image of the investment of the so-called ‘periphery’ in a truly global worldview, and by reasserting the importance of reading with networks in the current political climate.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorSimon Gaunt (Supervisor) & Julia Crick (Supervisor)

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