Cracking the Penile Code: Reading Gender and Conquest in the Alliterative Morte Arthure
The poem exhibits a pervasive “sexual logic” in which the character with the most masculine prowess prevails by means of verbal or physical domination of an enemy. Arthur’s battle with the giant on St. Michael’s Mount fuses conventions of erotic love and combat by appropriating the language of the romance tradition of secret meetings between lovers. The meeting with Lady Fortune parallels the fight with the giant, as she enacts a gendered conquest, or Baudrillardan seduction, of Arthur. In terms of the gender system constructed by the poem, Arthur is emasculated by Modred’s impregnation of an apparently willing Guenevere.