Monsters, Gender and Sexuality in Medieval English Literature

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Boydell & Brewer, 2010 - Literary Criticism - 227 pages
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Monsters abound in Old and Middle English literature, from Grendel and his mother in Beowulf to those found in medieval romances such as Sir Gowther. Through a close examination of the way in which their bodies are sexed and gendered, and drawing from postmodern theories of gender, identity, and subjectivity, this book interrogates medieval notions of the body and the boundaries of human identity. Case studies of Wonders of the East, Beowulf, Mandeville's Travels, the Alliterative Morte Arthure, and Sir Gowther reveal a shift in attitudes toward the gendered and sexed body, and thus toward identity, between the two periods: while Old English authors and artists respond to the threat of the gendered, monstrous form by erasing it, Middle English writers allow transgressive and monstrous bodies to transform and therefore integrate into society. This metamorphosis enables redemption for some monsters, while other monstrous bodies become dangerously flexible and invisible, threatening the communities they infiltrate. These changing cultural reactions to monstrous bodies demonstrate the precarious relationship between body and identity in medieval literature. Dana M. Oswald is Assistant Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
 

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Contents

The Indecent Bodies of the Wonders of the East
27
the Monstrous Body in Beowulf
66
The Monstrous Feminine in
116
Paternity and Monstrosity in the Alliterative Morte Arthure
159
Transformation and the Trace of the Monster
197
Index
221
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About the author (2010)

Andrea Penrose created her first book at age five--a neatly penciled story lavishly illustrated with drawings of horses and cowboys. She has since moved on from the wild and woolly Old West to the grit and glamour of Regency England.

A graduate of Yale University, Penrose loves exploring London, where the myriad offbeat museums and funky antique markets offer a wealth of inspiration for her stories.

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