The Saracen ‘Other’ in Middle English Romance

The theme that defines the majority of Middle English romances is adventure, and the need for the knight to prove himself with chivalric acts. The appearance of Saracens is a common topos of this genre. As most of these romances were written during or immediately after the long Crusade against the Muslims in the Near East, the inclusion of Saracens in the romance was therefore a manifestation of what was viewed as a threat to Christianity. While the Saracen men are demonised, however, the Saracen women are depicted as strong characters who not only help the knightly heroes, but betray their own families. The heroes of the romance are in essence transformed into Christ-knight figures for whom the Saracen women, such as Floris in Beues of Hamtoun, convert to Christianity. Anum Dada considers this two-fold depiction of Saracens and the way in which it reflects the Christian Crusading strategy: to either defeat the Muslims in combat, or convert them.

This lecture was recorded as part of Easter Lectures Day 2014, when postgraduate researchers deliver fresh insights into key undergraduate exam topics. Easter Lectures Day was organised by Laura McKenzie.

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