Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures


College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Holly Crocker


This thesis is concerned with the legacy of cultural representations of masculine violence as it manifests in late medieval alliterative poetry and contemporary superhero comics, and the ways in which those manifestations are inflected by a particular set of images, motifs, and cultural underpinnings which transcend sociohistorical boundaries and that illuminate the ways culture sanctions certain forms of masculine violence. To understand how, as Patricia Ingham suggests in Sovereign Fantasies: Arthurian Romance and the Making of Britain, imagination infuses history towards particular “regime[s] of truth,” I argue that late fourteenth century Arthurian alliterative poetry and contemporary superhero comics instruct a literate populace on the linkages between violence, masculinity, and power, and the ways in which culture sanctions each of these concepts (Ingham 27). I argue that late medieval alliterative poetry—specifically the Alliterative Morte Arthure and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight—were particularly instructive for young men regarding situational awareness: the knowledge of when and how a man should act in similar—and yet distinctly different—situations, and that Batman: Under the Red Hood mobilizes similar instruction through explicit ethical thought experiments about how, when, and against whom it is appropriate for men to manifest affect through violence. Finally, this thesis argues that because all of these texts inevitably end in violent acts by men, that culturally we expect—and, I argue, require—men to manage affect through violence and that there is no other alternative available in masculine codes of behavior.