postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies (2014) 5, 278–294. doi:10.1057/pmed.2014.23

Exegetical history: Nazis at the round table

Martin Shichtmana and Laurie A Finkeb

  1. aDepartments of Jewish Studies and English Language and Literature, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI
  2. bDepartment of Women’s and Gender Studies, Kenyon College, Kenyon, OH

An earlier version of this essay appeared in King Arthur and the Myth of History (2004). It has been adapted and updated for publication in this volume.



Some might argue that when Nazis fantasize themselves as medieval knights, they debase a beautiful, noble and innocent past. They might insist that this fantasy, which feeds a desire to see the male body as larger than life, this fetishizing of the body as armor and muscle, may be perverse, but the ideal – the chivalrous knight who pledged himself to honor, loyalty and brotherhood – should not be tarnished by that perversion. This essay, however, explores the possibility that there is, in all imaginings of the knight, always the potential for fascist desire. It suggests that there may be an unsavory kinship between the armored warriors of medieval Europe – even the romanticized armored warriors of King Arthur’s court – and the armored divisions of Nazi blitzkrieg. A fascist aesthetic is the darkness at the heart of Arthurian history, especially as it celebrates aggressive hypermasculinity mobilized in the service of a persecuting society intent upon domination.

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