OK, so since I hadn't posted anything for a little while, and with the intense worry that this 'blog would become stale and atrophied (shock horror), I decided to post the potential (possible-ha!) ideas for a paper I'm writing for a Middle English Romance class this term, just since I find this sort of thing interesting, and in the vain hope that people will critique it and tell me how WRONG I might be!
Watch out for any thrilling post ben might write in the near future, as I continually bombard him with requests to post...
The paper will later conclude that the most difficult body (if we had to choose!) to deal with in ME romance is the very body of the text itself - its disturbing generative capacity and meta/inter-textuality. Well, that's the plan anyway...
Anyway, read, comment, (perhaps, enjoy) and tell me that I'm WRONG.
The Repressed Goes Forth : Dealing with Difficult bodies in Middle English romance
When we first encounter the decrepit centenarian Sir Garcy in Le Bone Florence of Rome, we are presented with a difficult body that is a possible resolution of every Middle English romance. ‘As the Romans trewly tolde, / He was a hudurd yerys olde, / And some boke seyth mare’ and this reminds us not only of Garcy’s advanced age, but also that his story is the subject of another ‘boke’, another romance. This body itself, meanwhile, bears the very marks of a life so led: ‘For he was bresyd and all tobrokyn / Ferre trauelde in harness and of warre wrokyn’ (lines 103-4). Garcy’s body is literally inscribed with the marks of adventures undertaken: the wounds of battles fought (and won) and a body broken by a life in the saddle. Garcy’s body is difficult to incorporate into a schema that privileges juvenescence and beauty. However, Garcy embodies the somatic mutability that we are forced to encounter in a genre that is regularly doing complex things with its presentation of bodies.
The romance body (both the body of the text, and the body in the text) is one which is mutable and in constant flux. Important work has already been undertaken to re-imagine the definitions of such a body (if, indeed, it can be defined) or, at least, to invite an understanding of the medieval body which acknowledges its indefiniteness. That the discursive somatic boundaries which regulate bodily interaction might be both unstable and transmutable or, to put it another way, that the romance body (the body of romance) is not restricted by the boundaries of separated texts or by the separation of musculature, should not be particularly surprising. This paper will invoke Deleuze and Guattari’s notions both of the Body without Organs (BwO) and of the machinic assemblage, to work towards an understanding not only of what the difficult bodies of romance are, but rather, what it is they actually do.
Garcy’s body is difficult because it forces us to examine the consequences of the life of a romance hero who doesn’t get the girl, whose desire is queered away from the carnal and into the pastoral. Garcy’s love for Florence is not based on his desire to sleep with her; indeed, nothing could be further from his mind.
He had more mystyr of a gode fyre,
Of bright brondys brennyng schyre,
To beyke his boones by,
A softe bath a warme bedd,
Than any maydyn for to wedd
(lines 97 -101)
Further to this, we can read Garcy’s intentions towards Florence specifically, in all their sinister tactility:
When ye haue þe maydyn broght,
That ys so feyre and worthely wroght,
She schall lygg be my side,
And taste my flankys with hur honde,
That ys so feyre Y vnderstonde,
Yn bedde be me to byde.
Sche schall me boþe hodue and happe,
And in hur luely armes me lappe,
Both euyn and mornetyde;
(lines 106 – 114)
Yet this alone would not be all that troubling: it is hardly surprising that Garcy, a figure whose longevity has led him to ‘the passive dreams of old age’, should want the sort of passive non-sexual relationship he envisages here. However, what is troubling about Sir Garcy is that he seems to be in a state of transition, on the verge of moving between the knight whose honour in battle we cannot deny and the knight whose lack of sexual prowess we cannot ignore. For not only is Garcy’s description, quoted above, a reminder of his former battle-prowess, but his continued insistence that violence will result from the Emperor of Rome’s refusal to relinquish his daughter functions similarly; a threat which is later borne out: ‘Byd hur fadur sende hur to me, / Or Y schall dystroye hym and hys cyte, / And þorow hy remes ryde.’ (lines 115-118).
 C.F. Heffernan, ed., Le Bone Florence of Rome, ed. C.F. Hefferana (Manchester: University Press, 1976). pg. 55. All references to Florence are from this edition, with line references in the body of the text.
 See, for example, Jeffrey Cohen, Medieval Idenitity Machines (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003).
 Felicity Riddy, “Temporary virginity and the everyday body: 'Le Bone Florence of Rome' and bourgeois self-making,” in Pulp Fictions of Medieval England, ed. Nicola McDonald, 197-216 (Manchester: University Press, 2004). pg. 207.