R. Dillon ‘21
Majors: English and History
Affiliation: Honors College

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Aaron Hostetter, Associate Professor of English


Essential aspects of literature such as identity, sexuality and affirmation of self are only considered acceptable in literature as long as outcomes are predetermined to be heteronormative. Anything non-conforming, queer, ‘wrong’ is marginalized in medieval text, scooted away from the center of the page into the literal margins of a text. These elements of queer identity and sexuality invite direct affirmation in the literature where they are presented. Medieval texts often take these allegories of queerness and express them through subtle narrative cues. The lai of Bisclavret is a text that embodies both the struggle to grasp onto identity and pursue it and the desire to live out one’s sexuality while it is simultaneously forced inward. The use of blood of gore are cues that queer theory applies as where they appear alludes to queer existence and tribulations. When Bisclavret bites his ex-wife’s nose off her face, it is indicative of a reclaimed identity from an oppressive culture. Further, this trait of noselessness is passed along to her future generations, an allusion to AIDS and other diseases associated with queer populations. None of these concepts are in any way modern. Queer interpretation in medieval texts is done through this push-to-the- edge-of-the-page: marginalia. The use of medieval marginalia overlaid with the outwardly queer themes, not only of suffering but of love as seen through the king and his kiss, directly affirms their existence. Through the allusions of queer identity, sexuality and a reclamation of marginal space, Bisclavret becomes a text that is unabashedly queer, a story that is no longer ‘wrong’ or ‘unnatural,’ no longer heavily suppressed but plainly expressed.