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“And much more I am soryat for my good knyghts”

Fainting, Homosociality, and Elite Male Culture in Middle English Romance

Rachel E. Moss

Keywords: Arthurian legend; homosociality; masculinity; medieval literature; medieval romance; Middle English

In Middle English romances, public and semi-public displays of emotion are used by elite men to strengthen and promote hegemonic masculinity. This article examines how male fainting, as an act witnessed and sometimes replicated by an audience of men, serves to reinforce homosocial bonds, and to highlight the heroic qualities that make these characters capable of such deep, public sorrow. Late medieval patriarchy is dependent upon the homosocial bonding of elite men, and as such lionizes not only friendship between individual men, but also their collective unity as a body bound by social, political, and emotional ties. Fainting, as a performative act, provides a physical representation of both this collective identity and of specific virtues associated with male nobility.

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