Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, and the Middle Ages

Front Cover
University of Minnesota Press, 1999 - Literary Criticism - 235 pages
0 Reviews
A monster lurks at the heart of medieval identity, and this book seeks him out. Reading a set of medieval texts in which giants and dismemberment figure prominently, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen brings a critical psychoanalytic perspective to bear on the question of identity formation -- particularly masculine identity -- in narrative representation. The giant emerges here as an intimate stranger, a monster who stands at the limits of selfhood.

Arguing that in the romance tradition of late fourteenth-century England, identity is inscribed on sexed bodies only through the agency of a monster, Cohen looks at the giant as the masculine body writ large. In the giant he sees an uncanny figure, absolutely other and curiously familiar, that serves to define the boundaries of masculine embodiment. Philosophically compelling, the book is also a philologically rigorous inquiry into the phenomenon of giants and giant-slaying in various texts from the Anglo-Saxon period to late Middle English, including Beowulf, Chretien de Troyes's The Knight and the Lion, Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, Sir Gowther, several works by Chaucer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and more.

A significant contribution to our understanding of medieval culture, Of Giants also provides surprising insights into questions about the psychosocial work of representation in its key location for the individual: the construction of gender and the social formation of the boundaries of gender identification. It will engage students of the Middle Ages as well as those interested in discourses of the body, social identity, and the grotesque.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Other editions - View all

References to this book

All Book Search results »

Bibliographic information