Trauma has long played a role in queer narratives, including Ovid’s “Iphis and Ianthe”, which many scholars have interpreted as reinforcing heteronormativity through Iphis’s transformation into a man in order to marry Ianthe. However, I argue that John Gower’s rendition of this tale reframes Iphis as a trans man and allows us to understand the poem as a subversive trans narrative that revolts against cisnormative conceptions of gender. Utilizing Judith Butler’s writing on the medicalization of gender, I explore the relationship between trauma, performance, and gender within the Ovidian and Gowerian versions of Iphis.


Thank you to Georgi Donavin for giving me the opportunity to learn about medieval literature and encouraging me to submit this paper to The Gower Prize. Thank you to Eve Salisbury as well for your feedback and help with revisions.