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Munro, Elizabeth Henrietta Jane (2019) ‘Seeking Saracens’ : Exploring the representation of Muslims and Islamic Religious Practice in the English Charlemagne Romance Cycle and Petronius Redivivus. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines the representation of Muslims (‘Saracens’) and Islamic religious practice across two bodies of medieval literary works, the complete English Charlemagne Romance Cycle and stories VII and VIII of Petronius Redivivus [‘Petronius Revived’]. Both literary collections emerged during the medieval period, but were produced in different languages (Middle English and Latin) for different audiences and, as a result, these texts are highly complementary. Using these literary texts, this thesis gathers collective evidence for the representation of Muslims (or ‘Saracens’ as they are referred to in the works examined) and Islamic religious practice. Taking the evidence gathered, the thesis examines whether the representations found correspond to a contemporary understanding Islamic belief and practice, and how and when the literary figure of ‘the Saracen’ can be recognised as Muslim. To deconstruct the representations of Muslims and Islamic religious practice present in these works four key themes are examined, divided according to the dichotomy of body and soul: the senses; sex and sexuality; fixed boundaries of religious practice; and conversion and apostasy. The dichotomy of body and soul is used to divide exploration of Muslims (as ‘body’), from exploration of Islamic religious practice (as ‘soul’). The broader significance of this research derives from the fact it raises new interpretive possibilities that challenge the established stereotype of the Saracen in medieval literature. Rather than presenting the Saracen as a distant Eastern ‘Other’, practising a false religion, this thesis utilises a contemporary understanding of Islam in order to reassess medieval representations of Saracens.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Sarah Stewart
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2020 12:40

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