Hermeneutics of the Cart: Dual subjectivities of the Contemporary French Lancelot

CGS Brown Bag Lecture
Nov 07, 2012
01:30 PM to 02:30 PM
430 Burrowes

Cedric Briand, Penn State

The construction of Lancelot’s masculinity has been a complex process. Beginning with Chrétien de Troyes’s 12th-century Le Chevalier de la Charrette, Lancelot has had to struggle between two antagonistic gendering models: that of chivalry, and that of fin'amors. The later, 13th-century prose VulgateCycle complicates things further. Lancelot’s holy quest for the Grail is compromised by various agents of authority, who impose on him a multiplicity of often incompatible codes of behavior. 

This intricate web of conflicting identities has resulted in many faces for Lancelot in contemporary pop culture. Suddenly ugly and in love with Arthur in T.H White’s The Ill-Made Knight, he also becomes the bearer of the rainbow flag in the Musical Spamalot. But the French, too, have resurgences to offer. After discussing Chrétien's cart scene, I will show how the subjective dualities of the character operate in three different French media: through the duality of Lancelot's name in René Barjavel's final novel, L’Enchanteur (1984); through the duality of his allegiances in Alexandre Astier's successful TV series Kaamelott (2005-2009); and finally, through the duality of his sex in the eponymous bande dessinée, Lancelot (2008-present). Transcending the incongruity of approaches these sources have to offer, I will contend that Lancelot’s inconsistencies serve to highlight an ambiguous subjectivity.

CGS Fellow Cédric Briand is a doctoral candidate in the French and Francophone Studies currently working on his dissertation, "Hermeneutics of the Charrette", in which he studies the subjective (de)constructions of Lancelot in the French medieval corpus. His research interests include questions of masculinity, sexuality, subjectivity and their conflicting interactions. He has been a visiting exchange at Brown University and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, earned an M.A. in English Studies from the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon, and, more recently, an M.A. in French and Francophone Studies at Penn State.

This lecture is a part of the Center for Global Studies Brown Bag Graduate Lecture Series which focuses on the graduate research across disciplinary fields.

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