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Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 66-06, Section: A, page: 2207.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Toronto, 2005.
This dissertation approaches theoretical issues regarding the literary representation of the body through readings of two medieval Latin epics, Walter of Chatillon's Alexandreis and Joseph of Exeter's Ylias. I argue that these texts, based on prose histories but shaped by the heritage of classical epic, establish vital aspects of their epic identity through their representations of the body. The first chapter of the thesis studies how implicit or explicit comparisons to the alternate representational mode of the visual arts enable Walter and Joseph to think through the epic task of commemorating the dead, a task which brings the act of representation into dialogue with the destruction of the body. The second chapter deals with the major rhetorical setpieces which both poems feature, in which the literary representation of the body coincides with the social representation of the self in speech. The third chapter addresses the implications of allusion. Through an examination of the workings of this textual device in relation to the body, it considers how the representation of the body involves the reader in the text. The last chapter examines the role of the representation of the body in the larger structure of the poems. I show that Joseph invests the unifying imagery of the Ylias in the bodies of his female characters, while Walter structures his narrative on a competition between narrator and protagonist for control of the poem's epic voice, a contest centered on Alexander's body. The dissertation draws throughout on theoretical literature surrounding the body in relation to gender, violence, and sexuality. I insist, however, that in their unique cultural situation and poetic achievement the Ylias and the Alexandreis are not passive objects of theoretical analysis but vital contributors to our theoretical understanding of the body.