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I am currently a third year PhD student in the Department of French Studies, having completed my B.A (Modern and Medieval Languages) and MPhil in European Literature at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge. After taking papers in both medieval French and Occitan during my undergraduate degree, my postgraduate research interests have continued in this vein and I am especially interested in cross-cultural exchange and interaction between the Christian and Muslim worlds. My MPhil thesis introduced me to the figure of the Saracen as 'other' and involved comparing and discussing the chivalrous qualities of two Saracen warriors with reference to Derridean theory of mimetic desire. I am extending this research throughout my PhD, which will consider other, less well-known representations of the Saracen across a range of literary genres.
Representations of the Saracen in Medieval French and Occitan Literature
'Paien unt tort e crestiens unt dreit' - La Chanson de Roland (v.1015)
This is possibly one of the most famous lines from La Chanson de Roland, (c. 1190) itself one of the most celebrated medieval French texts. Yet to take such a dichotomy between Christians and pagans at face value would be unrepresentative of the Saracen as found across other works of Old French and Occitan literature. As such, this yardstick of the Saracen opponent should be reassessed to reflect the exceptional status of this text in relation to other contemporary works.
My thesis concerns representations of the Saracen found in a range of Medieval French and Occitan texts across different genres from epic and romance to religious material, mainly situated between the late 12th-mid 14th centuries. It will include both male and female characters, young and old in order to present a wider perspective upon this figure than has previously been achieved. I will be considering questions of identity formation as regards concepts of race and gender, which will also include discussion of genealogical links and social structuring. I am especially interested in the way that texts may be reflections of, or may be instrumental in creating ideologies and social categories and my work will consider the concept of medieval race in this context.
Basic Project Aims:
- To explore a broader range of representations of the Saracen than has previously been achieved.
- To consider the implications of social categorisation for medieval representations of identity.
- To explore the manifestation and interaction of seemingly modern concepts such as race, religion, ethnicity.
- To consider the evolution of cultural difference as evinced by medieval literary texts.
- To reassess the divisions that have been made in the study of medieval race, above all by including material from a variety of genres.