Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Romance Languages

First Advisor

Kevin Brownlee


The Lancelot proper, a vast fictional cycle written in French in the 13th century, is a prime example of how representations of identity are developed in fiction before the modern era. What determines identity, how the subject is conceived of and represented, if at all, in medieval literature, and how the limits of the subject are reflected in the limits of the courtly romance genre are the driving questions of this study. In order to answer them, the text has been divided into four spaces, each space unveiling identity in a different manner. Using several markers of identity as analytical tools allows for a detailed study of the constructions and destructions of fictional identity. Psychological markers such as voice and memory, physical markers such as appearance and disguise, and finally social markers such as name, title and reputation all come into play in the establishment of the literary subject in the prose cycle. From this textual evidence, the analysis develops to encompass questions of gender roles, agency, and authority. The Lancelot proper is then situated in its historical literary context, by using other earlier or later texts of the Arthurian tradition, in French and in one instance in German, underlining the unique nature of the Lancelot proper within this tradition. The complexity of the depictions of identity and their boundaries in the romance ultimately brings about an irreconcilable conflict, leading to the shift in values and ideology exemplified by the text immediately following the end of the Lancelot proper: The Quest of the Holy Grail.