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“The Knight of the Two Swords” in Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur (1485) tells a story of an invisible knight who without provocation kills other knights. Rather than have the identity of this invisible knight become part of the plot of this tale, Malory names him immediately (1:79-80). This early identification of the invisible knight has led Eugene Vinaver to speculate that Malory “wants at all costs to avoid suspense, and so transfers the solution of the mystery from the end of the dialogue to the beginning. There are cases,” Vinaver continues, “where such a method can relieve the story of an overdose of puzzles. [But i]n the present instance it has the opposite effect” (3:1315). I would like to use Malory’s puzzle of immediate identification of someone who cannot be seen, in this case a murderer, as a means to consider the relation between the concept of invisibility and evidence of crime and criminal guilt. From our own experience of September 11, 2001, we know that the idea of invisible perpetrators does not occur only in Arthurian romance. The attacks on that day were carried out by people who drew no attention when they entered airports, when they went through security, nor when they boarded the aircraft they later used as weapons. Writing for The Washington Post in October 2001, Salmon Rushdie articulated this invisibility: “New York is the beating heart of the visible world, tough-talking, spirit-dazzling. [. . .] To this bright capital of the visible, the forces of invisibility have dealt a dreadful blow” (A25).

Publication Date

Spring 2008

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©2008 E. Kay Harris



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