(De)monstrating the Other: Monstrosity as Performance in Middle English Romances
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This study argues that in the selected fourteenth and fifteenth-century Middle English romances, namely, Guy of Warwick (c. 1330), Richard Coer de Lyon (c. 1330), Sir Gowther (late 15th c.) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (c. 1400), Sir Gawain and the Carl of Carlisle (c. 1400), The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle (c. 1500), the knights and their adversaries are not distinct from each other and the two are in fluid states of becoming monstrous or chivalrous at the moment of their encounters. In this study, monster is defined as a person who is the source of underserved harm to people around, the society and its institutions in general. The two sides’ consequential performances during their interactions are analysed to determine their proclivity to either side. It is claimed that analysing monstrosity through the performative framework that relies on harm provides a fluid understanding of monstrosity that is compatible with the romances’ larger concerns of segregation, violence, introspective criticism of knights. This study investigates romances that are set inside and outside England’s geographical borders; borders in East during the crusading campaign; the Scottish and Welsh borders in the North. The instantaneous performances of the knights and their adversaries are analysed to demonstrate this emergent fluidity at the borders.