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Title:Gendered magic and Arthurian sovereignty
Author(s):Chandler, Erin
Director of Research:Barrett, Robert W
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Barrett, Robert W
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Trilling, Renée R; Camargo, Martin; Fresco, Karen
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
King Arthur
Abstract:In presenting a mythical establishment of British and English nationhood that is one of the most popular traditions of the medieval period, the legends of King Arthur are particularly suited to a study of the role of the supernatural in the establishment and maintenance of sovereignty in medieval romance. My dissertation, “Gendered Magic and Arthurian Sovereignty,” argues that the supernatural figures within the Arthurian tradition interact with the sovereign in a way which is determined by and mediated through issues of gender. My project surveys the largely unexplored overlap between these the study of the ties between the monstrous and national identity in medieval literature and the study of women in Arthuriana. In the insular Arthurian tradition, women take on two conflicting roles, safeguarding a dynastic succession, as the sovereign does, even as they threaten that very succession through outsized desire, as the tradition’s monsters do. My project articulates how Giorgio Agamben’s concepts of homo sacer and the sovereign exception are particularly suited to the gendered context of a nation-building and nation-defining medieval literature. According to Agamben, the sovereign’s power exists in his ability to place the figure he calls homo sacer in a state of exception from the law, in which he may be legally killed in order to confirm the sovereign’s rule. “Gendered Magic” shows how the exchange of women in Arthurian legend creates an essentially female homo sacer without whom the sovereign cannot exist. Each chapter of my dissertation thus examines the relationship between women, sovereignty, and the supernatural in a different literary genre and context, showing how this relationship transforms to complement differing ideas of the significance of King Arthur’s court.
Issue Date:2018-07-02
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Erin Chandler
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-27
Date Deposited:2018-08

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