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Faculty Mentor

Dr. Elizabeth E. Tavares

Subject Area

English

Abstract

What do beards indicate beyond physical aspects of sex? What do literary representations of beards and hair suggest in terms of masculinity? In the character portraits from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, male hair and beards are used by the characters to keep their secrets and portray who they want other characters to see while the author uses beards and hair to reveal the hypocrisy of this to the reader. Inversely, in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” hair is used for concealment; in this poem it is used to conceal Bertilak de Hautdesert’s true identity as the Green Knight. In this essay I argue the beards and hair of male characters in both The Canterbury Tales and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” are a synecdoche, standing in for both the key attributes of the figure and revealing his hypocrisy.

Keywords

medieval poetry, English literature, beard, hair, gender and sexuality studies, Geoffrey Chaucer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Canterbury Tales

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