Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Steven Kruger

Committee Members

Glenn Burger

Karl Steel

Subject Categories

Literature in English, British Isles | Medieval Studies


Troy, trauma, spectrality, sexuality, collective identity, Hector, Criseyde, The Troy Book, John Lydgate, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Alliterative Morte Arthure, Troilus and Criseyde, The Testament of Cresseid


The mythical city of Troy functioned as an imagined point of origin for many medieval nations, providing a tangible connection to the legendary past and nation-building tools useful for the ruling class. Troy provided a convenient foundation narrative upon which ideas of collective identity could be built for these nations, and England, where construction of a homogeneous past was difficult due to frequent ruptures in its development of communal identity, was an eager producer and consumer of such a legitimizing device. However, the trauma of war and destruction intrinsic in Troy narratives also generates potent political anxiety about the reanimated past. Using trauma theory and spectrality theory as a theoretical framework, this project aims to understand Troy in late medieval English literature as a place where the desires for, and anxieties towards, the classical past converge into a complex display of ontological fantasies. Specifically, this project examines Hector, Criseyde, and the Arthurian descendants of Troy as figures embodying the medieval concept of Trojanness, expressed through narrative attempts to control their political personae and sexuality. The Troy Book by John Lydgate depicts Hector as a complex exemplar, who demonstrates desirable and undesirable qualities for an aristocratic male identity, in turn betraying political anxieties about Troy as a traumatic point of origin fraught with images of destruction. This ontological trauma is translated into the Arthurian Britain in the Alliterative Morte Arthure and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where Trojan heritage is as much an ominous sign of treachery and ruin as a foundation of collective identity. The dichotomy of fascination and revulsion towards Troy, a common thread in these texts, is epitomized by the figure of Criseyde as seen in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and Robert Henryson, who signifies the repeated theme of loss and treachery inherent in the medieval concept of Trojanness.