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Title:Contested identities in discourses of colonialism and civil war: Race, gender, and the human/animal in twelfth-century England and Wales
Author(s):Lumbley, Coral Anne
Director of Research:Camargo, Martin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Camargo, Martin
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Trilling, Renee; Barrett, Robert; Smith, Joshua Byron
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):medieval British literature
premodern race
English chronicles
Welsh prose
transgender Middle Ages
Abstract:In the century following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, literary texts operated as a battleground upon which ethnically diverse, multilingual British writers fought to determine what British identity would ultimately become. Through a medieval postcolonial framework, in which power and resistance are represented in a bifurcated archive, this dissertation explores the textual methods which writers outside the ethnic and political centers of Anglo-Norman Britain used to contest a would-be hegemonic discourse of British identity. This discourse is kyriarchal, creating hierarchies of identity (racial, ethnic, and gendered) in order to establish biopolitical regulations benefiting the rising Anglo-Norman ruling class of Britain. My study reveals that the concept of race and the technique of racialization were integral parts of British discourse in the formative years of the high medieval period. For this period, the kyriarchal discourse is best represented in the Latin chronicle genre of the Anglo-Norman court to which modern scholars often look for master narratives of medieval Britain. as exemplified in William of Malmesbury’s Gesta regum Anglorum (Deeds of the English Kings), finished in 1127, and the anonymous Gesta Stephani (Deeds of Stephen). Indeed, each chapter illuminates how the historiographical genre seeks to rhetorically create an ethnically unified, patriarchal image of Britain. Drawing evidence from texts across geographic, temporal, and linguistic lines, I demonstrate that writers throughout England and Wales strove to delineate the contours of British identity, drawing upon concepts of gender and species as well as race. The opening chapter presents several theories of race and outlines how medieval race has been theorized by modern scholarship. I look to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s pseudo-historical chronicle, De Gestis Britonum, commonly known as History of the Kings of the Britains (1136), to show that Geoffrey represents British history as one of racial mutability, pointing toward the viability of empire-building through ethnic hybridization. Although Geoffrey’s massively popular text emphasizes racial plasticity, my second chapter shows that deep divisions between the Welsh and English continued throughout the medieval period. Through a reading of the stereotype of Welsh treacherousness as established by William and refuted in Welsh chronicles, I demonstrate that racialization was a key weapon of both Welsh and English historiography. Much like Chapter 2, the third chapter zeroes in on a single aspect of medieval race. I argue that Anglo-Normans developed the technique of “animalization” by which they denigrated Welsh personhood as more animal than human, a portrayal countered by Welsh literary representations of the human/animal binary. This exploration shows that a species hierarchy has been a buttressing element of racial discourse in the West for over eight hundred years. In order to demonstrate that hierarchies of race and species are merely two elements of an emerging British kyriarchy, the final chapter offers a trans theorization of the Empress Matilda. Based upon denigrating descriptions of Matilda in the Gesta Stephani, and her multi-gendered self-representation in her royal seal, I theorize Matilda as a female king who did not cater to Anglo-Norman patriarchal expectations regarding female power. Ultimately, this dissertation traces several strands of medieval biopolitical and social regulations in order to argue for a much earlier appearance of a British kyriarchy.
Issue Date:2019-07-08
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Coral Lumbley
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-11-26
Date Deposited:2019-08

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