A "Queen" in King Arthur's Court: Split Selves, the Grotesque, and Homoerotic Desire in T.H. White's The Ill-Made Knight
Pfordresher, John C
Although most critics acknowledge that Lancelot is the character with whom T.H. White most closely identifies with in The Once and Future King, there has been little to no analysis of the ways in which the author's repressed homosexuality is reflected in his portrayal of the Chevalier Mal Fet. Indeed, White's depiction of Lancelot in The Ill-Made Knight is perhaps the most unusual rendering of the character to be found in Arthurian literature. He possesses a face like Quasimodo's and is said to be ape-like in appearance. White's Lancelot rationalizes his hideous demeanor according to medieval physiognomy, surmising that his ugliness reflects what he perceives as his inner baseness and sinfulness. White's version of the character is thereby plagued by feelings of inadequacy that stem from two competing and contradictory selves: the grotesque, sinful Chevalier Mal Fet and the exalted, chivalric Lancelot. This paper argues that the fractured self at the center of Lancelot's narrative derives from the knight's repressed homosexual desires thus reflecting the repressed homosexuality that haunted the entirety of White's life. In making a case for homosexual desire, I undertake a psychoanalytic approach that examines the grotesque uncanny as representing repressed homosexual urges. I also suggest that White alludes to Freud's essay on how homosexual desire develops, “A Child is Being Beaten,” in the final line of his narrative. Finally, I maintain that the erotic triangle at the heart of the story actually intensifies the homoerotic attraction between Lancelot and Arthur. Within each of these sections, further examinations of the role that other seminal psychoanalytic works play in a same-sex reading of The Ill-Made Knight are elucidated, including Lacan's mirror stage, Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, “On Narcissism,” and “The Economic Problem of Masochism.”
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