In Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, and the Middle Ages, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen argues that the Mt. St. Michel giant in the Arthurian legend is frightening and transgressive because of its position on the threshold between humanity and the Other; Arthur’s subsequent defeat of the giant in each of the variant versions of the legend marks a coming-of-age moment in the story in which humanity triumphs over the monstrous. In keeping with the idea presented within the proposed session
“When Categories Fail!: Taxonomies of the Unknowable” I would like to build on Cohen’s ideas of the giant and monstrous through a close linguistic analysis. Geoffrey of Monmouth refers to this monster of Mt. St. Michel as a “giant”, Wace and Laзamon refer to it as an “ogre” and a “fiend” – although the giant always signifies the same monstrous episode, in no two of the texts is he referred to in the same term. I believe this suggests a cultural shift from one literary generation to the next in terms of how the monstrous was viewed, with resultant implications for the study of the monstrous from Geoffrey’s era through the end of the Middle Ages. This linguistic shift and its suggested implications are the subject of my paper.