Vision and Gender in Malory's Morte Darthur

September 2010
214 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Arthurian Studies
ISBN: 9781843842422
Format: Hardback
Library eBook

Vision and Gender in Malory's Morte Darthur

Molly Martin

Fresh study of the intricate roles played by gender, visibility, and the idea of romance in Malory's Morte.
"Skilfully blending analysis of medieval ideas of optics and vision with careful close readings of the text and deft use of modern critical theory, the author offers a fresh, exciting and insightful reading of the Morte. Of interest to all medievalists, and particularly fascinating for those working in the fields of Arthurian literature, medieval science and philosophy, and gender studies." Dorsey Armstrong, Purdue University.

This first book-length study of vision in the Morte Darthur examines the roles played by sight - seeing and being seen - in the Morte's construction of gender, highlighting also the influence of the romance genre in this process. The discussion addresses several key figures: Gareth provides a paradigm of visible romance masculinity; Launcelot's and Trystram's adulteries introduce competing needs for both visibility and invisibility; Palomydes and other less acclaimed knights, and reactions to their shortcomings, confirm the model of visible gender; grail knights and Malory retain secular romance ideas of vision and gender on the religious quest; and the two Elaynes and Percivale's sister prove femininity more variable and less rigid than masculinity in the text. The book argues that visibility is crucial to Malory's conception of gender identity and, further, that masculinity and femininity are determined throughout the Morte by the romance genre.

MOLLY MARTIN is Associate Professor of English at the University of Indianapolis.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Masculinity and Vision in the Morte Darthur
"Beholdyng" Gareth: The Spectacle of Romance Masculinity
Gazing at the Queen: Trystram and Launcelot
Seeing Unseen: Palomydes and the Failure of Masculine Display
Romancing Religion: Competing Modes of Vision on the Grail Quest
The Female Gaze: Constructing Masculinity with and without Men
Conclusion: Malory's Arthurian Visions of Masculinity


[A] clearly written and engaging work of scholarship. Martin deftly integrates close reading with her presentation of the scholarship of other critics, making both the argument and her informative footnotes a pleasure throughout. [...] Not only Malorians but all students of romance will want more than a glance. SPECULUM

[The] reader can learn a lot about the variety of masculinities in Malory's work and come away from it knowing more about parts of the book that have frequently been overlooked. JOURNAL OF ENGLISH AND GERMANIC PHILOLOGY

The analysis is well written and typically accessible, with a strong use of secondary sources to illustrate and bolster the arguments being put forward. PARERGON

A smart, solid and timely combination of medieval and contemporary theories love, gender, and sight. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

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