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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

‘So faire ȝhe was & briȝt of mod, Ase snow vpon þe rede blod’: The Shifting Identities of Saracen Women in Medieval Romance

23rd May 2017, 18:00, World Heritage Site Visitors Centre, Anum Dada, Department of English

This paper examines hybridity of character in the Middle English romances written during the late medieval period. As the quotation from Sir Beues of Hamtoun in the title suggests, Saracen women in Middle English Romances were distanced from their blackened and demonised male counterparts and were westernised to suit the narrative purpose. However, the westernisation of these fantasized figures does not lead to ‘an erasure of Saracen identity’ as these women retain certain quintessential markers of their culture and original identity. Even after converting for the sake of their Christian lemen, these Saracen women swear ‘by ylke lord that tholed woundes fyue’ in one instance and turn around and subsequently produce Eastern wonders such as healing girdles and transformative herbs at other instances. These women forsake their families and convert to Christianity but also retain characteristic features common to Muslim Umayyad and Abbasid women. The strangely harmonious blend of characteristics creates constantly fluid identities, as they are no longer rooted in one culture.

This event is free to attend and open to all and you do not need to register your attendance. The seminar will begin at 6pm, with tea and biscuits from 5.40pm.

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