This article explores Lord Byron’s Manfred as a contemporary text with the critiques of Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Judith Butler. I argue that Manfred’s quest operates as a form of “limit test,” an approach to knowledge that subverts or questions what is taken to be “universal.” This article traces a genealogy of Byron and Foucault’s shared interest in finding a way out for carceral figures who are confined by guilt and “Enlightened” forms of knowledge. Referencing Agamben’s Homo Sacer and the potentiality of being, I suggest Manfred tests the limits of the “truth of being” in its relationship to Power and deconstructs Manfred’s exile from human society. I connect Manfred’s representation of gender and sexuality to Judith Butler’s work in Gender Trouble, wherein she describes homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender mobility as a form of “incest” to society. I invoke Judith Butler’s conception of gender performativity as new way to understand the Manfred/Astarte relationship and link gender with the “truth of being” itself. Read this way, Byron’s work entangles contemporary notions of gender, exile, and knowledge through tropes of incest, sin, love, and resurrection and death, and this positions his work as a confluent site of discourses in biopolitics.

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