Adrian McClure

Position title: Honorary Fellow (2022-2024)

Pronouns: They/them

PhD, Medieval Literature, Purdue University

A photo of Adrian McClure seated in front of a window with a theatrical prop of a shield in the background.

Haunted by Heresy: The Perlesvaus, Medieval Antisemitism, and the Trauma of the Albigensian Crusade

I am currently finishing up a book project on the Perlesvaus, an anonymous thirteenth-century Old French Grail romance renowned for its idiosyncratic departures from Arthurian traditions, its taste for the phantasmagorical and macabre, its disturbing outbreaks of hyperviolence, and its odd focus on the battle between the Old and New Law. My reading of this anomalous romance positions it as a powerful work of trauma fiction whose narrative perturbations reflect a hitherto-unrecognized crisis of religious identity triggered by the onset of internal crusading in Western Europe in 1209. The massacre-prone, decades-long course of the Albigensian Crusade, I argue, placed intolerable strain on foundational understandings of religious identity in which Christians viewed themselves as spiritually and ethically superior to “superseded” Jews, eternally typecast as cruel persecutors of Christians. One key analytical construct I develop is the “doppelganger Jew,” personified in the Perlesvaus by its schizoid Jewish/Christian authority figure, Josephus, who presides over the romance as an uncanny embodiment of hysterical fears that Christians were losing their spiritual moorings and reverting into reviled, scapegoated Jews. In addition to shedding new light on the complex evolution of Western antisemitism, Haunted by Heresy spotlights the searing cultural costs of persecuting marginalized groups for both demonized and demonizers, victims and perpetrators.

Adrian McClure is an independent scholar who received their PhD in medieval literature in 2020 from Purdue University. Their research orientation is strongly interdisciplinary, combining literary and historical analysis, and their areas of interest include trauma theory, antisemitism studies, trans/queer/gender studies, and modern medievalism. They are especially interested in the intersection of medieval literature and religion and published an in-depth reading of the Oxford Song of Roland as a theologically-inflected text in Speculum. Adrian is currently transitioning to a new book project with the working title The Non-Binary Middle Ages: Arthurian Romance and the Christological Reenvisioning of Gender.