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This article provides a new, queer feminist reading of Sir Orfeo, in which Dame Heurodis facilitates her abduction by the Fairy King in order to destabilize the patriarchal possession of her body. Using Luce Irigaray’s work on the exchange of women between men, I discuss Heurodis’s value as a commodity and how she extricates herself from this position. Irigaray proposes that the primeval patriarchy created an exclusive between-men discourse within society, a consequence of which is the consuming masculine gaze. I consider how the silencing of the feminine is akin to the silence of the natural world, and how this enables Heurodis to express her rejection of her consumption by the masculine gaze. I argue that Sir Orfeo is a tale concerning reproduction, especially the patriarchal preoccupation with patrilineal descent that controls women’s bodies as vessels of procreation. To counter the male appropriation of the womb, I show how Heurodis aligns herself with the transformative nature of the enclosed garden, in particular the grafted impe-tree, which instigates and navigates the abduction. The maternal generative power that manifests through the natural world transforms Heurodis and queers her identity as she rejects the gendered life set for her by the patriarchy. I propose that Heurodis displays her agency through her self-mutilation, which is a form of feminine expression.
abduction, Heurodis, gaze, grafting, Irigaray, Middle English, mutilation, Orfeo, queer
Worgan, Ruth "Abduction and Feminine Expression in Sir Orfeo." Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 58, No. 1 (2022) : 67-83.