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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

a) Women warriors and masculine men

2) “I don’t need x-ray vision to see your six-pack”: representing masculinity on the body of Gawain and Superman

Jianing (Ivy) Li

Texte intégral

1In many of Gawain’s appearances in Arthurian Romances, he has been posed as the ideal: the best lover, the perfect knight from the noblest family, and Arthur’s most loyal follower. A similar identity can be applied to Superman, the “American Crusader,” the first and the perfect superhero. Both characters demonstrate and practise the perfection of masculinity within their own cultural contexts (medieval Europe and contemporary America), which is why I attempt to bring them into conversation. Though Superman is not necessarily directly modelled on Gawain, a medievalist analysis reveals their similarities. This paper focuses on two main sections: homo/hetero-relationships among characters, and gazes on their bodies. Female characters in both genres are given two tasks. On the one hand, they are designed to celebrate and emphasise Gawain and Superman’s masculinity by showing off their pretty faces and desirable bodies. On the other, they can be threats toward masculinity once they attempt to put a ring on our heroes’ fingers. Homosocial relationships are more complicated: homosociality was encouraged and carefully played in Arthur’s court as a way to emphasise Gawain’s masculinity, whereas attitudes toward homosociality in the comic industry change with the changing of political atmosphere in different eras. Gawain’s and Superman’s masculinity seem to be emphasised by their ultra-macho physiques, through the eyes of others. The homoerotic gazing on Gawain’s body and the almost nonsexed portrayal of Superman’s body (not-visible male genital) complicate their masculinity.


King’s College London)

© Publications de l’École française de Rome, 2021

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