• The Signs and Location of a Flight (or Return?) of Time: The Old English WONDERS OF THE EAST and the Gujarat Massacre

    Eileen Joy (see profile)
    Historiography, Medieval Studies, Old English / Early Medieval England
    English literature--Old English, Middle Ages, Violence--Religious aspects, Ethnicity, India
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    queer temporality, Alexander the Great, genocide, Old English literature, Medieval history, Religion and violence, Gender and queer studies, Queer studies
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    In this essay, I examine two widely divergent instances of what I understand to be a compulsive and racialized-sexualized violence against women whose bodies have been figured as "foreign"/Eastern (and even, as animal and barbaric) threats within collective national bodies: the real case of a massacre in the modern state of Gujarat in southwestern India in 2002 and the imaginative case of Alexander the Great’s massacre of a "race" of giant, masculinized "women" in the fantasized Babilonia of the Anglo-Saxon "Wonders of the East." Both cases reveal, I believe, certain persistent social anxieties about the racialized female body as, in Elizabeth Grosz’s terms, “a formlessness that engulfs all form, a disorder that threatens all order,” and a “contagion.” Out of the horror and disgust that sometimes arises in the encounter with the female body that is perceived as aggressively monstrous, and which is seen to mark, in the words of William Ian Miller, “a recognition of danger to our purity,” we can trace a very ancient and ritualized type of reactionary (riotous, yet also highly controlled) violence that is both morally condemnatory and sublimely (even sexually) ecstatic, and which can be seen, to a greater and more restrained degree, respectively, in the Gujarat genocide and the Old English text.
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    Last Updated:
    4 years ago


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