• Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic: Formations of Identity and Agency in Medieval Literature and Art (Foreword on The Liminal and Social Functions of Masking and Disguising in Mummers’ Plays)

    Xiao Di Tong (see profile)
    Middle Ages, Literature, Medieval, Manuscripts, Latin (Medieval and modern), Art, Medieval, Christian art and symbolism--Medieval, Beowulf, English language--Old English, English literature--Old English, Art, Renaissance, English drama--Early modern and Elizabethan
    Item Type:
    Beowulf Manuscript, Medieval art
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    Specifically, this project will explore the various instances of textual containment of monstrosity in the Beowulf manuscript by defining containment in terms of spatiality in the Wonders of the East pictorials of exotic “Orientals” and in the narrative sense of “silencing” and “un-naming” monsters in Beowllf and Judith. I aim to provoke psychoanalytic frameworks such as Julia Kristeva’s abjection, Sigmund Freud’s uncanny, Victor Turner’s liminality, and Homi Bhabha’s hybridity and mimicry to inform my readings of textual confinement of the monstrous Other. This essay will investigate the explicit ways in which monstrosity is demarcated by texts through different rhetorical and visual restrictions and how such enclosures inadvertently exoticize, or to a certain degree erotize the monstrous subjects by rendering them as silent, detached fetishes that we fantasize about but do not dare to make concrete except in the written form. Rosemarie Garland Thomson’s Freakery (1996) suggests that through the historical process of medieval tolerance and curiosity towards monsters and freaks, monstrosity, as an interpretive framework, becomes “something to be desired” (qtd. in Bildhauer 4). This essay will, therefore, argue that text marginalizations all fail in containing monstrosity and that they mystify monstrous characters’ seductiveness and desirability in horrifying yet fascinating corporeal terms. The duel sense of estrangement and appeal generated by containing unbounded monstrosity that potentially permeates and overcomes the text fuels our imagination of medieval hybrids. The two-fold perversion of “queered” monstrosity is simultaneously productive of, and subversive of, hegemonic ideologies. Such juxtaposition, both provocatively and problematically, disrupts the very notion of self and Other and impishly undercuts our established familiarities and assumptions about monstrosity, and how perhaps neither identity, nor race, is what we think it is.
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    6 months ago
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