Neomedievalism in children’s and young adult literature and media often collides with modern ideologies like feminism, in direct conflict with the phallocentrism of medieval and mythic heroism. The crux of this conflict is the signifier of the martial object, often depicted as a sword in the hand of the masculine hero. Employing Sarah Ahmed’s concept of “queer use,” this article articulates four key ways in which swords function in neomedieval fantasy: (1) metonymic, (2) symbiotic, (3) authorizing, and (4) agentic. These narrative functions empower swords and analogous weapons to operate as queer objects that bridge the past and present, mediating their conflicting ideologies. Using Alanna and her sword Lightning from Tamora Pierce’s young adult fantasy Song of the Lioness as a case study, reading swords as signifiers in this way can offer a model of recuperative neomedievalism that allows for more gender-inclusive models of heroism for young people.


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pp. 364-382
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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