Performing class, performing genre : The squire of low degree as fifteenth-century drag

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2017-05-03

Authors

Heide, Melissa Louise

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Abstract

Despite the expansion of Judith Butler's theories of performativity which have proliferated since the publication of Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity in 1990, few scholars have examined the implications that performativity may have for social class. Fewer still have considered how social class might be performed in the premodern text. In this thesis, I examine how the economic language which pervades the little-studied fifteenth-century romance The Squire of Low Degree enacts a socioeconomic iteration of Butler's theory of performativity. This performance of social class occurs primarily in the speeches of this romance's courtly characters and at the site of the squire's body, as he attempts to rise above his ascribed social class to become a knight and qualify as a suitable partner for his beloved, born of royalty. Finally, this thesis demonstrates not only the social performativity within the poem's narrative, but also the classed performance enacted by the genre of the romance itself, producing a medievalist fantasy of social mobility for the increasingly prominent late medieval gentry classes itself, producing a medievalist fantasy of social mobility for the increasingly prominent late medieval gentry classes.

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