Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jana K. Schulman

Second Advisor

Dr. Eve Salisbury

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert F. Berkhofer III


Modthryth, Judith, Grendel's mother, abjection, male gaze

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Old English poetry features several female characters who challenge androcentric authority by violently killing men. I argue in this thesis that three of these women—Modthryth, Grendel’s mother, and Judith—are linked together by their rejection or reversal of the male gaze. In their forceful refusal to be visually objectified, each character is portrayed as abject—outside of normal and outcast from community. They cause disorder, illustrate the fragility of androcentric control, and force a confrontation with death. In so doing, they create ambiguity and, at times, reverse the subject/object and masculine/feminine gender binaries.