Date of Degree
Steven F. Kruger
Michael G. Sargent
Scott P. Westrem
English Language and Literature
I explore the dynamics of homosociality in late medieval culture, investigating both Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and its cultural and political environments. I articulate two conflicting attitudes toward male same-sex relations: one affirming and celebratory, the other homophobic. I conclude that Chaucer's poem both replicates and generates a late medieval sociocultural discourse characterized by tension between normative male same-sex behavior and the potential politicization of such behavior.
In the introductory chapter, I survey important recent historical and feminist criticism of Troilus and Criseyde and situate my project within the current debate regarding definitions of premodern sexuality. In chapter 2, part one, drawing on medieval concepts of imagination and vision, as well as psychoanalytically-inflected film theory, I suggest that chivalric treatises, biographies, and romances invite novice knights/readers to call forth potentially homoerotic images of model figures. I go on to examine eroticized male-male encounters in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Stanzaic Morte Arthur. In part two, I delineate the emotional intensity which informs male same-sex bonds in Amys and Amylion and the French Prose Lancelot by situating these texts within a biblical, classical, and medieval literary tradition that celebrates homosocial intimacy.
Chapter 3 examines politically-motivated depictions of male same-sex intimacy in important fourteenth-century historical texts. After exploring how testimonies from the trials of the Knights Templar produce a narrative of aggressive same-sex behavior, I demonstrate how the major chronicles of the reigns of Edward II and Richard II wage a politically-motivated attack on each King's relationship with his court favorites. I argue that the chroniclers were not attacking the idea of close male friendships, but rather Edward's and Richard's choice of intimate companions.
Chapter 4 examines how Chaucer's poem exemplifies, complicates, and dramatizes key homosocial interactions illustrated or suggested in chivalric texts. Drawing on Freud, his feminist and queer interpreters, as well as Rene Girard's and Eve Sedgwick's theories of triangulated desire, I articulate the interplay between homoeroticism and heterosexual desire. In chapter 5, I argue that, by depicting Troilus and Pandarus as advisee and adviser, respectively, Troilus and Criseyde suggests the highly criticized relationship between Richard II and his court favorites. I then demonstrate how the text moves against Troilus and Pandarus' friendship.
Zeikowitz, Richard E., "Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde in Male Homosocial Contexts: The Politicization of Same-Sex Desire" (2000). CUNY Academic Works.