Mark Abate, Westfield State University: “The Re-Orientation of Roger Bacon: Muslims, Mongols, and the Man Who Knew Everything.”
Roger Bacon (ca. 1220-1292) — polymath, advocate of reform, and eventual prophet of doom—experienced a mid-career “re-orientation” after coming into contact with a Latin translation of the greatest medieval Arabic forgery, the pinnacle of the libri secretorum genre, Pseudo-Aristotle’s Secret of Secrets. In 1247 Bacon resigned from the faculty of arts at the University of Paris and began “twenty years of labor” which, in large measure, were dedicated to interpreting the meanings, mysteries, and potential applications of the secret knowledge locked within Pseudo-Aristotle’s collection of ciphers. By 1266 he believed he had cracked the secrets, discovered the long lost “universal science” that governs the natural world, and was ready to take action. His “universal science,” the real secret of all secrets, was a hybrid of astral magic, alchemy, and optics which he believed could immediately bring a successful military end to the crusades and convert the entire Islamic world to Christianity. This paper traces the development of Bacon’s thought on the East and underscores his indebtedness to Islamic sources as well as his program for resolving the conflict, to papal advantage, between Christendom and Islam.
Diane Peters Auslander, Lehman College, New York: From Saints to Demons: The Ups and Downs of the Eastern Ascetic Tradition in the Lives of an Irish Female Saint
It has often been noted that the eastern eremitic traditions of the desert fathers and mothers had a deep impact on Irish Christianity in general and on Irish monasticism in particular. The exact manner in which this influence manifests, however, is rarely delineated. In fact, Irish monasticism is not merely influenced by the eastern tradition, it is a hybrid of both eastern and western practices, of both the eastern desire to seek solitude in the wilderness and the western impulse to share the rigors of monasticism with others. This hybrid is clearly seen in the life of the Irish saint, Darerca, and is carried on into the rewrite of that life: the Life of St. Moninna. Moninna is commonly acknowledged to be a nickname for Darerca and, although the hagiographer, Conchubranus, conflates the legend of his heroine with the legends of several other saints and takes Moninna out of Ireland to found churches and monasteries in England and Scotland, the Life of St. Moninna not only reflects the hybridity seen in the Life of Darerca, but adds even more evidence of eastern influence. Two subsequent rewrites of the Life of St. Moninna were composed in England at Burton Abbey; one in Latin in the 12th century and one in the French of England in the early 13th century. Here her name becomes Modwenna who was thought to be the foundress of Burton where her relics were found, but whose legend had been lost and she became conflated with Moninna by the early 12th century. These latter two lives retain the eastern influence but it lost its impact outside of its Irish context at a time when there was ethnic hostility towards the Irish based in part on their practice of Christianity. In this paper I will demonstrate how the solitary ascetic traditions of the east were assimilated into Irish monasticism and made of it something unique that would serve as an example and later a threat to the western Christian church.
Courtney Barajas (University of Texas, at Austin): “Truth, Divinity and Monstrosity in the East: Reading the Cotton Tiberius MS B.V as a Whole Text”
Medieval perceptions of space and understandings of the monstrous have always been closely tied. In studying medieval maps, scholars and students alike are almost always drawn to descriptions of monsters and fantastic beasts. The mappa mundi found in Cotton Tiberius MS B.V is a beautifully rendered example of the medieval perception of space, made even more fascinating by it’s proximity an Old English translation of The Wonders of the East and Ælfric’s De temporibus anni, a treatise on time and the natural world. This paper will argue that by reading the Cotton Tiberius MS as a “whole text”, a new understanding of Medieval perceptions of the East appears – one in which depictions of the monstrous are not intended to scare laymen or discourage East-West interactions, but rather encourage global understanding, and emphasize the “godliness” of all living things. My research is based on a close reading of the original texts, and on examination of a 1929 reproduction of the three known versions of The Wonders of the East, originally printed for the Roxburghe club, which is housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. This archival research should yield interesting insight into reception of the MS as a whole.
Pascale Barthe, University of North Carolina Wilmington: The Merchant is a Thief: Jean-Baptiste Tavernier’s Oriental Works
Examining key passages from ‘Les Six Voyages de Jean Baptiste Tavernier’ (1676), I draw attention to the metamorphoses of the merchant in and by the narrative. I argue that in his account Tavernier does not only morph into diplomat and epic character as Friedrich Wolfzettel and Isabelle Morin have shown respectively, but also, as an Oriental, the boldest of his numerous transformations. As early as the ‘dédicace’ where the traveler-turned-author compares the flow of his book to the leisurely and uneven pace of a caravan, the text points to a nonchalant, lusty, and conniving individual. Chapter VIII of Book One, for example, describes a foiled plot by Persian robbers, but alludes to a bigger thievery, that of local wool by Tavernier himself who acquires the rare and precious commodity by neither purchase nor hard work, but by intimidation and plunder. A Protestant bourgeois ennobled by Louis XIV in 1669 after his gift to the monarch of an extraordinarily large blue diamond brought back from India, Tavernier appears a bigger oddity still in his Voyages where he ultimately portrays himself as an Oriental and Orientalist ‘avant la lettre’ clashing therefore with his own society, the baroque savants of the Republic of letters described by Nicholas Dew, and ultimately with the king himself.
Alison Beringer, Montclair State University: Uniting East and West through Language: Alexander’s Conquest of Semiramis
In texts of the Latin West, Semiramis is the spouse of Ninus, King of Babylon. When the throne becomes vacant—usually, but not always, because Ninus dies—Semiramis assumes power and rules for decades. West European Medieval narratives of the queen’s many adventures during her reign abound; probably the most damning narrative motif, and the one most plausibly responsible for the prominent Western association of Semiramis with the vice of luxuria, is her incestuous pursuit—sometimes successful—of her own son.
Quite different is a text of the Greek East, a late Byzantine Romance, The Narrative of Alexander and Semiramis. This narrative makes no mention of the husband Ninus: Semiramis is the unmarried queen of Syria in her own right. Of the many suitors who seek to win the royal hand—and kingdom—Alexander the Great is the one to succeed. This historically impossible yet exceptionally happy union of Western and Eastern rulers and their domains has at its core the function and manipulation of language. In exploring both protagonists’ use of language, this paper leads to a consideration of Semiramis’s association with Babylon, locus of linguistic confusion.
Denis Bjaï, University of Orléans (France): “The Representation of the East in Montaigne’s Essais”
The East means a great deal in Montaigne’s imagination. It first means for him the huge space where Alexander deployed his conquests, as Quintus Curtius, Arrian and above all Plutarch had related them and as the mysterious Tamerlane (mentioned six times in the Essais) imitated them a thousand years later. Concerning the relationship established with so many nations and peoples, Montaigne especially keeps in mind the lessons of wisdom given by the Gymnosophists (II, 29, and III, 1). He also considers the East as the place of choice of major empires, in the past, such as Persia of Cambyses, Cyrus and Darius, then in the 16th century Turkey of Selim and of Suleiman the Magnificent. Even if their expansion, though stopped in Lepanto (1571), remained a threat for Europe, the Ottoman Empire nonetheless provided a fascinating model of military and political organization to which Montaigne often refers.
This paper will aim at showing that, in early modern Europe, the East does not only act as a foil to the West but also exerts a disturbing power of attraction. Montaigne’s Essais precisely offer a meaningful account of both aspects.
Patricia Black, California State University, Chico: Rumi’s Mathnawi and the Roman de la Rose: The Space of Narrative
Rumi and Jean de Meun, whose name is attached to the second part of the Roman de la Rose, inhabited very different worlds and yet in their writing made use of a similar technique, that of telling a tale within larger verse narrative. Though each poet makes use of an existing verse romance style, the goal of each narrative is ultimately different from that of its predecessors. Rumi’s text gives instruction on spiritual life. Though scholars differ over the narrator’s aim in the Roman de la Rose, it is a critique of courtly love. However, both texts have a didactic purpose that uses a variety of stories to make a point, give a moral, as the narrative unfolds. This similarity allows one to compare the techniques used to intertwine these tales into the larger whole and via these stories expand outwards into cultural comparisons, though these poems had no influence upon each other. Both exerted a large literary, artistic, and thematic influence over a long period of time. They inspired followers, adapters, and, in the case of the Roman de la Rose, polemic. One notable difference between these two texts is that Rumi’s work continues to be read by a wide audience while the Roman de la Rose now attracts specialists.
For the theme of East meets West, it is pertinent to compare the details of how both poets are concerned with the nature of reality as well as their use of various stories to explain that reality. Though the intra- and extradiegetic world of the Roman de la Rose would deny any points of comparison, and largely ignores any other worldview than its own, it nevertheless performs an exegesis of reality similar to what Rumi’s comparisons and images do. The fact that the ostensible goal of the stories of the Roman de la Rose is very different from that of Rumi can be brought into question through that comparison. If so, such goals reflect mutual interest even where direct evidence of exchange may lack. Thus, these two works demonstrate their intertwining into cultural development of two distinct cultures, but yet with what would have been mutually intelligible literary and artistic preoccupations. These poets are both interested in science, knowing, and how the human realm can enter into contact with true knowledge. How each poet explores the domain of true knowledge behind the veil of the real world is expressed through his narrative. These comparisons, both similar and dissimilar will be the subject I explore in this paper.
Sean Clark, University of Arizona: The Other “Others”: Eastern Christians
in Early Modern German Travel Narratives
The last thirty years has witnessed a significant scholarly and popular interest in the image of Islam in medieval and early modern Europe. Since the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism in 1978, much attention has been paid to the ways medieval and early modern commentators used images of Islam and the “East” as mirrors to define Christianity and Europe. In overly simplistic terms, this work has shown that for Europeans the East was in many ways portrayed as a negative image of themselves, Islam a negative image of Christianity. In the scholarly literature on this topic, East/Orient has most often been synonymous with Islam. There were, however, non-Muslims in the East. The population of the Ottoman Empire was in majority Christian until 1517 when the defeat of the Mamluks brought vast new territory into the imperial fold. Even after that, Christian communities continued to make up a significant minority within the empire. Up to now, however, far less scholarly consideration has been given to the role of images of Eastern Christians (Greeks, Armenians, Copts, etc.) in the dialectical process of European and western Christian identity formation. This paper will begin to rectify some of that imbalance through an examination of sixteenth and seventeenth century German travel narratives dealing with journeys to the Ottoman Empire, and particularly Constantinople and Palestine.
Travelers to Christian religious sites in Palestine were greatly concerned with identifying and enumerating the similarities and differences between eastern and western Christianity. In this presentation, particular emphasis will be given to travel narratives written by Protestant authors who, in the crucible of the Reformation, were attempting to define just what it meant to be a Christian. In traveling to the East and then choosing to write about their experiences for publication, these authors were forced to confront in the most fundamental terms the realities of Christian history and Christian diversity. In their writings they asked how they and their co-religionists fit within this much larger and more complicated religious picture. Explicitly and implicitly they asked who were the true heirs of the Christian tradition. The answers they supplied in the popular medium of travel/pilgrimage literature shed light on the development of increasingly strident religious identities in the years leading up to and including the Thirty Years’ War. Western Christians used their descriptions, positive and negative, of other Christians and other Christian groups to argue for particular understandings of Christian identity, and in so doing contributed to the rhetorical battles raging on the printing presses of Europe at the time.
Christopher R. Clason, Oakland University, Walther von der Vogelweide and the Middle East: “Holy” Land and the Heathen.
In several poems on the Holy Land, Walther recreates the space of the Near East through numerous symbolic and concrete images that present both the relevant aspects of political / social reality in the region alongside an abstract, tendentiously religious narrative of essential Christian beliefs. At times, expressions of physical space and pious conviction blend in Walther’s lyric, especially when he argues for political or religious activism. Thus, the space of the Holy Land is conceived differently for different rhetorical effects. However, tensions arise at numerous loci in the poems, “deconstructing” the reader’s original notions of the Holy Land. Thus, the poems force the reader into confronting a new perspective and, perhaps, reforming their own, creating a less concrete and more religious-confessional or political notion of the land and the people who inhabit it. Is the resulting image of these people that of a bitter and mortal enemy or is there a possibility of reconciliation with the “other?” What role does the land itself play in that image?
Through several of these poems the dynamic relationship among the competing strands of discourse, religious and mythological images, political realities and Walther’s goals also provide insight not only into what the Holy Land is, but perhaps more significantly into what Europe is not.
In this paper I would like to examine passages in Walther’s “Palästinalied,” “Ottonenton,” “Wiener Hofton,” “Kreuzlied,” and others for their symbolic and rhetorical content, through which Walther describes the “heathen” occupation of the Holy Land, a space that differs essentially from the space of other Walther poems set in Europe. In the analysis I hope to discover how the poet employs the tensions he creates as a political tool, either to summon leaders to political action or to recruit faithful Christians for a military invasion (is it a summons to arms against an imaginary enemy or the assertion of a claim to the land among a group of competitors?), and how the resulting image either fulfills or challenges the historical notion of the East held by Christians in the medieval West.
Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona: The Encounter with the Foreign in Late Medieval German Literature: Fictionality as a Springboard for Non-Xenophobic Approaches in the Middle Ages
Throughout the Middle Ages various authors reflected upon encounters with the East, and despite the profound crusading mentality, a number of authors actually represented harmonious, even friendly relationships with the east. This phenomenon comes through most poignantly in anonymous texts, although there is no guarantee that identifiable authors automatically expressed more aggressive viewpoints. This paper will discuss imaginary concepts of toleration in three medieval German verse narratives from ca. 1180 to 1509.
Allison Coudert (UC Davis): Rethinking Orientalism in the Long Eighteenth Century (1650-1800)
When Edward Said published Orientalism he fired a shot that was indeed heard around the world. Like all polemics, Said’s book was neither fair nor balanced. But as Nietzsche remarked “The falseness of a judgment is to us not an objection to a judgment… The question is to what extent it is life-advancing. . . .” As I argue in my paper, Said’s book advanced the life of scholarship tremendously by encouraging scholars to reconsider the issue he raised about the power of European discourse to define and marginalize the East for its own enhancement. As a result, it has become increasingly clear over the past decades that Orientalism was not the one-way street Said imagined. Eastern ideas profoundly influenced key aspects of Western religion, science, and culture. What has come to be known as “Western esotericism” would not exist were it not for the influx of eastern philosophical and religious ideas into Europe, and these ideas had a major impact on biblical criticism and attitudes towards Christianity and religion in general. The scientific revolution cannot be understood without an appreciation of the impact of eastern science. Finally, the popularity of Oriental art and literature stimulated European imaginations, influencing western art and aesthetics and leading many individuals to question behavioral norms as well as established notions of race, class, and gender.
Linda Darling, University of Arizona: ADVICE LITERATURE: A MEETING OF EAST AND WEST?
The literature of advice is common to East and West, and this paper charts the asymmetries of transcultural flow in this literature. It establishes a medieval baseline, when the two literatures resembled each other the most but actual contact has not been established. At this time the flow was decidedly East to West, with the anonymous *Secret of Secrets* containing the earliest representation of the Circle of Justice quoted by Roger Bacon. The paper then focuses on the early modern period, when both Ottoman and Western European traditions diverged–in different directions–from their medieval models to address the unique political relationships and problems of their respective regions. In this period Ottoman advice works were translated and read in Europe, but not the other way around. The two literatures converged again in the eighteenth century, and this time the Ottomans began to import advice from Europe. The paper also looks at the traditions of study of these literatures in different periods, finding that the way that these advice literatures have been read in the modern era actually prevents scholars from studying them comparatively.
Ramon Eduardo Duarte, University of Arizona: Producing Yeni Dünya for an Ottoman Readership: The Travels of Ilyas bin Hanna al-Mawsuli in Colonial Latin America, 1675-1683
The Riḥalāt Awwal Sharqī ila Amarika of Ilyas bin Hanna al-Mawsuli (ca. 1685, published first in 1906) offers historians far more than just a unique and interesting early-modern travel narrative. By virtue of his status as both an Ottoman subject and an Eastern Christian with ties to the Roman Catholic Church, Ilyas al-Mawsuli had access to the upper echelons of both societies and utilized it to move beyond his homeland, transforming a simple pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1675 into a short stint as official translator for Mehmet IV’s emissary to Venice, to obtain an audience with the Habsburg Spanish Queen Regent, and to travel to colonial Spanish America with permission from the Spanish crown and the Vatican. After eight years abroad, al-Mawsuli finally returned to his homeland, leaving behind his travel narrative—the first piece of explicit evidence of a Middle Easterner in the New World prior to the modern era.
In this paper, I will demonstrate that, as a seventeenth-century Arab from Ottoman Mosul traveling throughout Iberian America, al-Mawsuli wrote for a home audience, peppering his narrative with familiar terms throughout, producing (or perhaps projecting) the Christian New World (yeni dünya) for an Ottoman readership. Al-Mawsuli’s outlook owes to his unique status of straddling two different ethno-cultural identities: that of what I call an “Ottoman-Arab” (an Arabophone temporal subject of the Ottoman imperial cultural-political milieu) and a “Catholic-European” (one with knowledge of Latin, and a spiritual subject of the Roman Catholic Church and its cultural-political milieu). This not only allowed al-Mawsuli access to Christendom (which his countrymen lacked), but also complicated his view, producing a narrative that projected the history of the New World as the triumph of Christendom in the exotic “fourth clime,” packaged for a readership in the Ottoman lands, written in colloquial Mosuli Arabic and in the style of rihalât (Arabic travel writing).
Heiko Hartmann, University of Berlin: Wolfram’s Islam: The Beliefs of the Muslim Pagans in Parzival and Willehalm
Wolframs of Eschenbach Grail romance “Parzival” (c. 1210) and his epic poem “Willehalm” (c. 1220) are outstanding examples for the poetic delineation of Eastern culture and religion in medieval Western literature. Wolfram’s art of interweaving traditional themes with oriental motifs and figures is unique in Middle High German literature. But in his descriptions of the exotic ‘pagans’ he makes a lot of mistakes: The religion of the Muslims in “Parzival” and “Willehalm” is polytheistic; the importance of the Caliph of Bagdad is compared with that of the Pope in Rome; often the epic topography of the Arab world is not ‘correct’ as regards to historical names of places and realms, etc. This paper examines Wolfram’s idea of the Islam, collates all relevant passages in his works, identifies his main sources, and explains the narratological and historical reasons for his ‘errors’.
Stefanie Helmschrott, University of Augsburg, Germany: Communicating at Eye Level? – Two Ways of Intercultural Communication in Hermann’s of Sachsenheim “Die Mörin”
The text I am about to examine was composed by the Swabian knight Hermann of Sachsenheim in 1453, the year when the fall of Constantinopel left an indelible mark on the western world. The poem can be summarized as the narration of a Christian knight, who is accused by Venus of having violated her rules of courtly love and who is compelled to stand trial for his life in front of an Oriental court. The text is dedicated to Mechthild – the Countess Palatine in Württemberg and later Archduchess of Austria – and addressed to a smaller circle of persons who most likely belonged to Hermann’s social and professional contacts. “Die Mörin” does not only offer critical allusions to contemporary occurrences, but also gives insights into the co-existence of different ways of communication. This paper focuses on the communication between members of the Occidental and Oriental cultures. These conversations – both public and private – are in the heart of the novel more than action; they serve as means of subdividing the story. But they do not only formally influence the constitution of “Die Mörin”, they also represent its essential topic and demonstrate cultural approaches and exchange as well as hostility and disrespect. Furthermore, Hermann’s primary audience seems to be instructed to understand how the application of certain values proclaimed in Wolfram’s “Willehalm” could have an effect on intercultural communicative acts.
Andrew Holt, Dept. of History, Florida State College at Jacksonville: Crusading against Barbarians: Muslims as Barbarians in Crusades Sources
Declining birth rates and longer life spans have led to concerns over how modern European nations with generous pension plans and health care services will be able to maintain such services in the future. In response, many of these nations have relied heavily on immigrant workers from the Middle East and North Africa to fill the void. Yet this development has itself presented a number of challenges, as significant numbers of native Europeans have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the new arrivals. In particular, the influx of large numbers of Muslims into European societies has resulted in concerns over the effect of such immigration on the traditional cultural and religious norms of each country. Indeed, many Europeans understand traditional Muslim perspectives on issues including freedom of speech, the equality of women, and sexual freedom as primitive and unsophisticated. Consequently, it is not uncommon to find references, in the media and elsewhere, to Muslim immigrants as “new barbarians.”
The notion that modern Muslims represent “new barbarians” suggests that Europeans had not previously viewed Muslims as barbarians. Indeed, perhaps the most well known barbarians are those traditionally associated with the decline of the Roman Empire in the West during the fourth and fifth centuries. Hence, it is more likely that, for most Europeans, the mention of barbarians brings to mind their cultural ancestors; the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Franks, Lombards, and others barbarian groups that were present in Europe during late antiquity or the early middle ages. Little thought seems to be given, when discussing barbarians, for example, to the Muslim Umayyad or Abbasid dynasties of the middle ages, which, to the contrary, have been hailed by several historians for their sophistication in comparison to early medieval Europe. Some historians have even argued that medieval Christians did not view Muslims as barbarians because they were aware of the sophistication of the Muslim world and the strengths of the Muslim character in relation to their own. Historians have seemingly remained steadfast in such claims, arguing that only in rare instances did medieval Europeans refer to Muslims as barbarians and such instances were an aberation that was not reflective of broader European societal views until after the later fifteenth century when the Ottoman Turks became a serious threat to western European security.
This paper, to the contrary, will argue that the traditional and current view of historians, that medieval Europeans did not view Muslims as barbarians, is incorrect. Indeed, in contrast to much recent scholarship on the issue, there is abundant evidence to show that the adherents of Islam were widely perceived, on many levels of medieval European society, as barbarians throughout the crusading era. While it is true that many medieval European authors praised particular virtues or certain achievements of Muslims, as is often noted by modern historians, this did not exclude the very same authors from generally viewing Muslims as inferior or primative in other important ways. Moreover, such an apparent contradiction is not without precedent, as even earlier Roman authors sometimes praised the barbarians of their time while nevertheless maintaining they were barbarians.
Jean E. Jost, Dept. of English Bradley University, Peoria, IL 61625: The Exotic and Fabulous East: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville
As Tamarah Kohanski and C. David Benson point out, “The Book of John Mandeville was a contemporary bestseller, providing readers with exotic information about locales from Constantinople to China and about the social and religious practices of people such as the Greeks, Muslims, and Brahmins” (1). The knight-author promises “that he will present the many amazing sights, creatures, and customs he observed during his more than thirty years of travel” (1). Indeed, The Book of John Mandeville does offer amazing people, places, and things, and with fulsome sensory details, but surprisingly, without a great deal of affect. In fact, the style of Mandeville, whomever he may be, is often flat and direct, straightforward and intellectualized. This strategy, of not leading his audience to an emotional response or sharing his emotional response with them, has the effect of actually increasing audience involvement as they realize the unstated, often shocking reality.
If Mandeville and his audience represent the West, he has determined to introduce the Western sensibility to that exotic and fabulous, in both senses of the word–both dubiously true and astounding–Eastern extravaganza so antithetical to Western experience. His cleverness in presenting that often-shocking reality in sometimes deadpan fashion heightens its impact, perhaps forcing the audience to claim its own emotional reaction. For example, we are told that in the ile of Lango is Ypocrasis doughter in maner of a dragon that is a hundred foot long, as men seyn, for I have hit nought seye. . . . And sheo lith in an old castel and shewith her thre tymes a yer. And she doth no man harm but if any man do her harm, and thus she is changed fro a damysel to dragon thorgh a goddas that men callen Diana. (29)
This straightforward account makes no mention of the extreme length of the dragon, nor the daughter’s ability to transmogrify herself at will, but concentrates on the specific details of the marvel, almost to the exclusion of the unusual or unexpected aspects of the vignette. Such downplaying of the very exotic elements which Mandeville purports to report increases the emotional rapport experienced by the audience and the intensity of their involvement. This ingenious literary tactic adds to the pleasure of reading the text and the value of the artistic product Mandeville so scrupulously controls.
Alan V. Murray (University of Leeds): A Hierarchy of Peoples:
Franks and Native Communities in the Principalities of Outremer
The principalities established by settlers of European origin in Palestine and Syria (in Old French, Outremer) in the wake of the First Crusade (1096-1099) represent an important case of encounter and interaction between Western and Eastern populations, institutions and cultures. However, conditions in Outremer were rather different from other areas of significant cultural and technological interchange, such as the kingdom of Sicily or the convivencias of Iberia. From the time of their inception, the kingdom of Jerusalem, the principality of Antioch and the counties of Tripoli and Edessa were in a near-permanent state of war with their Muslim neighbours, and within their frontiers the Europeans (“Franks”) were only a minority among Muslims, Jews, Samaritans and Eastern Christians of various confessions.
In 19th- and earlier 20th-century scholarship the dominance of the Franks in Outremer was generally viewed as a kind of benevolent colonialism which seemed to presage and justify British and French rule in the modern Near East. However, since the end of modern colonial empires the government and society of Outremer have been judged quite differently, primarily as a result of the influence of the Israeli scholar Joshua Prawer (1917-1990), whose book The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (1972) remains a touchstone of scholarship. It characterises the the society of Outremer as a case of segregation and apartheid, in so far as the Franks refused to assimilate and all Eastern peoples were equally disadvantaged and exploited by their rulers.
Recent research by Israeli historians and archaeologists has begun to question Prawer’s certainties; a further problem is that he based his arguments solely on Palestine, while neglecting the equally complex but different societies of Syria. This paper argues that in Outremer as a whole, the Franks in fact adopted pragmatic and highly nuanced policies with regard to the native populations, with quite differentiated attitudes to living arrangements, intermarriage, inclusion in government, military service and other key issues, which suggest a hierarchy of peoples rather than the gaping binary divide postulated by Prawer.
Daniel F. Pigg, The University of Tennessee at Martin: When East Meets West in Chaucer’s “Man of Law’s Tale: The Syrian Development
The “Man of Law’s Tale” presents one of the most intriguing representations of Islam in the canon of Chaucer’s works. Particular attention has been given to the fact that Chaucer radically expands his source behind the events in Syria which result in the death of the Sultan and Custance’s being set adrift in the sea at the hands of the double-dealing Sultan’s mother. Much attention has been given to this mother/mother-in-law in the history of Chaucer criticism, ranging from a presentation that credits the darkening of her character to the teller while the Chaucer poet is relatively “tolerant” of religious differences to more recent examinations that ask us to reconsider the representation of Islam through the historical prism of the Crusades.
What none of these studies seems to realize is that in Syria the world turns upside down. At the hands of the Sultan, there is a “forced conversion” to Christianity which radicalizes the experience through the prism of a kind of postcolonial discourse. Islam takes on the characteristics of mimicry and ambivalence.
While it may be true that Chaucer minimizes the distance between Christianity and Islam, represented by the geographical locations of Rome and Syria, through the lens of the postcolonial, we actually see how strongly mimicry and ambivalence are set in the text. The result is a presentation that examines the power differential in the tale. From the postcolonial vantage, the actions of the mother-in-law and Sultan’s mother, while certainly barbarous, is little more than a cultural appropriation of violence normative in Christian/Islamic encounters, with the balance of the violence typically falling from its sources in the Christian camp. For the Sultan’s mother, the experience is one of survival. At the same time, her mimicry of rituals and power within the Christian community sets up an ambivalence in the representation of the event. Is her ire against her son or her new daughter-in-law? In a real way, her violence is more against cultural traitors than a strike at difference. Moving between images of minority and majority culture that Islam existed within medieval Syria, the Sultan’s mother—a woman defined solely by a relationship and not a name—comes to represent the complexity that existed in Christian/Islamic relations in the mind of Chaucer.
While we often look at our “major writers” as more liberal and inclusive than the typical person of his or her age, what seems most apparent in the “Man of Law’s Tale” is that through the expanded section of the story narrating the events in Syria, Chaucer has presented his audience with an irresolvable cultural ambivalence that critiques the very circuits of power and faith that are the result of an age-old strife, more memorialized than real.
Connie Scarborough, Texas Tech, Lubbock: “Our Moors” and “Them”: Alfonso X’s and the Muslims
Alfonso X ((1221-1284) had a complicated political and social relationship with the Muslims. In his legal, historical, and literary texts he was careful to distinguish between his own Muslims subjects (mudéjares) and his Moorish enemies (primarily from Northern Africa) against whom he often had to defend his territories and coastlines. Alfonso’s father had been very successful in conquering previously-held Moorish territories in the Iberian Peninsula and, as a result, his son inherited a large Muslim population over whom he governed. Alfonso maintained his mudéjar subjects in their designated sections of towns—the aljama—and allowed them a good deal of autonomy in dealing with the affairs of their own community. These moors were seen as vital elements of the community and, with some legal restrictions, their rights and privileges (including freedom of religion) were respected. In fact, Alfonsine law regarding Muslims insures the safety of the mudéjares who enjoy the king’s protection for both their persons and their property. The law did not permit the marriage of Christians and Muslims but for the most part, the majority of legislation was aimed at apostasy to Islam which was seen as paramount to treason and punishable by death. In Alfonso’s collection of Marian miracle tales, fully one-eighth of the collection of 412 poems deals with Moors. The subject matter of the narrative poems ranges from Christian victories over Moors, conversion of Moorish subjects to Christianity, and Moors who enjoy the miraculous mercies of Holy Mary despite their persistence in the Islamic faith. Alfonso’s law codes and his literary works reflect, in part, his own conflicts when trying to negotiate the ruling of a minority peoples with whose correligionaries he was often at war. The combination of his role as protector of all his subjects, his personal respect and admiration for Islamic scientific and literary achievements, and the need to establish legitimate and lasting Christian hegemony as Castilian monarch were often at odds and are reflected in the inconsistent ways in which he presents Muslims in the works produced at his court under his royal tutelage.
Dr. Romedio Schmitz-Esser, Duke University/Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München: Embalming the Corpse between East and West: From Ar-Razi to Henry de Mondeville
This paper scrutinizes the translation of medical knowledge from learned eastern, Arab medicine to the Latin Occident during the Middle Ages. Unlike the classical, teleological view of an old-fashioned History of Medicine, it does not focus on the translation of treatises alone, nor does it claim to solve the question of knowledge transfer for the medical sciences as a whole. Its aim is at the same time much smaller and much broader: In unfolding just one tiny bit of medical knowledge in the West – the practice of embalming – this paper will show that Arabic knowledge was only one of the influences that dominated this field in the first Western treatises on this topic. When Henry de Mondeville and Guy de Chauliac in the 14th century wrote down the first theoretical remarks on embalming in Occidental medicine, their accounts dependend as much on the most influential treatises of Ar-Razi (Rhazes) as on a very vivid practice in the West. Embalming was practiced in the Latin Occident throughout the Middle Ages, and had become a frequently applied technique for saints and the leaders of both the secular and ecclesiastical hierarchy since the 10th and 11th century already. These techniques were partially based on the accounts given by the Bible; but medieval embalmers had added to these very vague ideas, which could be derived from the few biblical passages, some more practical means from their own daily lifes experience. Astoundingly, nearly all these methods were in the end consistent with Galenic theories, and could therefore find their way into medical teachings of the Late Middle Ages alongside with the then venerated Greek-Arabic tradition. In the Occident, therefore, the process of knowledge transfer between East and West seems more to be a kind of fusion than a mere copy of the Eastern model. That Western practical tradition and Arabic ideas on medicine seemed to fit into the Galenic ideals of the time, that were common throughout the Middle Ages, enabled this fusion. Thus, at least in the field of embalming, the knowledge of antiquity was handed down in many ways to the West, and the Arabic translations brought to Europe in the 12th and 13th century were just one – though the most influential – part of this process. Only a new method, the bringing together of sources related to the medical practice with the theoretical treatises on medicine, allows new insights into the complicated processes of knowledge transfer between East and West in the Middle Ages.
SCOTT L. TAYLOR (PCC, Tucson, Arizona): “Merveilles du Monde: Marco Millioni, Mirabilia and the Medieval Imagination, or the Impact of Genre on European Curiositas
Written half a century apart, the travels of the Venetian, Marco Polo, and the Tangierian, Ibn Battuta, two of the great travelogues of the medieval epoch detailing sojourns to the far eastern lands of India and China, met very different fates. While Polo’s narrative was widely acclaimed in Europe and remained popular into the modern era, Ibn Battuta’s, while certainly circulated albeit occasionally in abridged version, quickly fell into an oblivion from which it was rescued only in the nineteenth century, and then by Christian scholars. This was in no way a reflection upon their putative credibility, for contemporaries were skeptical as to both. Rather, it is argued that their respective fortunes in the first instance were determined by the genre into which each was cast, Polo’s by publishers, Ibn Battuta’s by himself. For the former was considered in its day an example of the marvelous, and was read in the same light as John de Mandeville, while the Tangierian’s was specifically a rihla, an Islamic literary form of travelogue designed for entertainment and edification, describing pious institutions, public monuments and religious personalities of great Islamic centers, a sort of cross between European medieval pilgrimage accounts and contemporary guidebooks. Simply, for reasons explored in greater detail, Ibn Battuta’s travels constituted a poor rihla, while Polo’s conformed to expectations as mirabilia.
This paper considers the significance of mirabilia, particularly those dealing with the East as, in Le Goff’s words, “repository of the marvelous.” Unlike Le Goff, however, it is argued that the truly alien element of the East was not necessarily “strange” in some abhorrent or purgative sense, in the manner perhaps of the Topographia hibernica of Gerald of Wales, so much as interesting or “unexplained” (or as Gervase of Tilbury would say in the Otia imperialia, “Mirabilia vero dicimus quae nostrae cognition no subjacent etiam cum sint naturalia,” [A sense also employed by Roger Bacon in De secretis]. While Mabille says in Le Miroir du merveilleux, “Marvelous journeys offered more than just pleasure, satisfaction of curiosity, amusement, escape, terror and enjoyment; they offered a more thorough explanation of the whole of reality than was available anywhere else,” in fact such explanations were inherently wanting and invited not only speculation but investigation, unlike miracles which were both doctrinally and definitionally beyond both. They did not so much satisfy curiosity as engender it. As a consequence, Le Goff’s taxonomy of mirabilia implying the uniqueness of the “scientific marvel” underestimates the rationalizing and historicizing tendency inherent in the mere act of describing or cataloguing the marvelous. But that same trend of demystification reduces the distance between reader and subject. The knowable demands to be known, and curiosity breeds a form of attraction. It is little wonder that Columbus’s indebtedness to such mirabilia should demonstrate how influential and inspiring such works could be on fifteenth and sixteenth-century explorers.
Thomas Willard, University of Arizona: Islamic Learning in the Christian West: The Strange Case of Christian Rosencreutz
In the central scene of J. V. Andreae’s “Hermetic Romance” (Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz, 1616) the guests at a mysterious wedding are entertained by a play about the rivalry of a Christian prince and his Muslim counterpart for the hand of a young princess. The play is a comedy, and the Western prince gets his girl without killing either his rival or his own chaplain, who has doubts about any woman who has traveled to the Middle East. The struggles and eventual union in the play are symbolic of the union of Eastern and Western ideas in the original Rosicrucian writings, of which this is the third and longest.
The legendary Christian Rosencreutz was said to have spent a full decade of his youth in the Arab world, learning mathematics in Yemen and alchemy in Morocco. Finding that his studies were of no interest to the rulers of Europe, he founded his secret brotherhood. When the story of his travels in the late medieval world was finally written up (probably by Andreae) and published (in the early seventeenth century), it set off a frenzy of publications, with pamphlets praising or blaming the brotherhood and sometimes seeking admission to it. One of the attractions for those who praised it was the access to the wisdom of the East, still associated with the Magi of the Nativity story. That was also one of the charges brought against it, along with a suspicion that the Rosicrucians were not just Protestants but secret Muslims.
Starting with the original Rosicrucian “manifestos,” the essay will suggest how the legend of Christian Rosencreutz drew on the writings of real scientists and scholars, from Fibonacci and Lhull to Paracelsus, and on stories attached to these writers. It will then turn to the East-West dialogue in alchemical literature, with the emphasis on the writings of Andreae’s contemporary Michael Maier. It will end with some twentieth-century reappraisals, including the fictional retelling of Rosencreutz’s story in a novel by the Australian writer David Foster.
Jens T. Wollesen (University of Toronto): East Meets West in Pictures
The “horrible city” of Acre (Jacques de Vitry), “stinking and filthy, full of refuse and excrement”(Ibn Jubayr), is traditionally celebrated as the epitome of Crusader Art in the thirteenth century. Firstly, this paper briefly scrutinizes two Histoires Universelles manuscripts, the ones in Dijon (Bibliothèque municipal, 562) and London (British Library, MS Add. 15268)—both commonly believed to have been produced in Acre.
Secondly, after rejecting Acre as their place of production, the focus moves to Cyprus as the more likely place of their origin.
Cyprus under the French Lusignan rule, but vitally connected with Armenia, Byzantium and the Holy Land, presents the third stage of this paper. There I focus on the huge panels of the Hodegetria and Saint Nicholas today in the Makarios III Byzantine Museum in Nicosia, and finally on the early fourteenth-century frescoes in Asinou and Pyrga, in order to spotlight the heterogeneous testimony of pictures as an existential exchange in an island between East and West. This realm, at the doorstep of Outremer, was ruled by western patrons who were, to certain degrees, exposed to eastern influences. These mostly secular patrons with their complex native pedigrees integrated a multitude of cultural and therefore also visual and pictorial features, amalgamated with elements of heterogeneous eastern realms by necessity and choice with their western heritage—according to their corporate and individual needs which were changing and expanding through their experience of the foreign other.