The John Bullen Prize
Derek Neal. Meanings of Masculinity in Late Medieval England: Self, Body and Society. (Department of History, McGill University , 2004).
Derek Neal’s exploration of masculinity in late medieval England stands out from its peers by virtue of its ambition, verve, and deft handling of a breadth of sources and approaches. The dissertation moves seamlessly from the male social self, revealed by interpersonal relations with other men and with women, inward to the physicality of the male body, and finally to the psychic interior of the male subject. Each level of analysis calls for different types of evidence and different theoretical tools, which Neal draws from gender theory, literary criticism, and psychoanalysis, applying each where appropriate while avoiding incoherence and derivativeness. Confronted by the limitations of his sources, Neal engages his readers in an open dialogue about the use of literary and legal evidence with an intellectual maturity and wry humour rarely seen at the doctoral level. While parts of the analysis remain speculative and may prove controversial, this work when published will contribute not only to medieval history but also to an increasingly sophisticated discussion of the problems and prospects of gender studies more broadly.