The impact of the geopolitical power of Islamic East on premodern European literature and culture has not yet been systematically explored. Marcel Elias’ monograph, which is being written with the support of CBRL, aims at investigating this topic making use of the evidence supplied by a large number of fascinating yet little-known writings in English, French, Occitan, Italian, German, and Latin.
Project director(s): Marcel Elias
Lead institutions and funding:
In the field of literary criticism, East-West relations have long been examined from the perspective of power, most influentially by Edward Said, who focused his analysis on Western images of Arabs and Muslims from the late eighteenth through twentieth centuries, when Europe was establishing and consolidating colonial rule in the Middle East.
While Said himself acknowledges that ‘Islam dominated both East and West’ during the eighth century to the sixteenth, the tremendous impact of the superior geopolitical power of the Islamic East on premodern European literature and culture has been sparsely explored.
My monograph in progress, entitled The Superior Enemy: Muslims in Medieval European Literature and Culture (1200-1500) and supported by a CBRL Honorary Fellowship, argues that Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman (re)conquests during the late twelfth through fifteenth centuries prompted a crisis in the European collective consciousness, manifested in sustained interrogation and critique of prevailing philosophical beliefs and cultural practices, and increasing attraction to Islam’s (perceived or actual) cultural, political, and religious characteristics. It focuses on the evidence supplied by a large number of fascinating yet little-known writings in English, French, Occitan, Italian, German, and Latin.
Elias, Marcel. 2019. The superior enemy: Muslims in medieval European literature and culture (1200-1500). Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant 2018-2019, p 24.
Published:06 December 2021