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8 - “Making Race” in Medieval Romance

A Premodern Critical Race Studies Perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2023

Roberta L. Krueger
Affiliation:
Hamilton College, New York
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Summary

Medieval romance, from the perspective of critical race studies (CRS), justifies medieval imperial expansion. Medieval romances frame themselves as celebrating the culture of elite knights and ladies by imagining their borders as inhabited by dangerous people who must be defeated and eliminated, with the result that enemy territories are subsumed into the territories of the elite knight. From this viewpoint, medieval romance uses chivalry to define who is accepted within the boundaries and who is left out of that formation. By studying differing patters of dehumanization in medieval romance with a focus on Old French and Middle Welsh texts, the chapter shows some examples of the ways that the genre of romance makes race and of how the repercussions of making race further systems of oppression. The chapter’s aims, then, are to use CRS to show a possible form of analyzing race in medieval romance.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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References

Suggestions for Further Reading

Delgado, Richard and Stefancic, Jean. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, 3rd ed. New York: New York University Press, 2017.Google Scholar
Derosier, Joseph. “The forest and the heath: Defining the human in medieval romance,” Special Issue: Critical Race and the Middle Ages, Dorothy Kim (ed.) Literature Compass 16.9–10 (2019).Google Scholar
Hendricks, Margo. “Coloring the Past, Considerations on Our Future: RaceB4Race.New Literary History, 52.3,4 (2021): 365–84.Google Scholar
Heng, Geraldine. Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
Heng, Geraldine. The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018.Google Scholar
Huot, Sylvia. Outsiders: The Humanity and Inhumanity of Giants in Medieval French Prose Romance. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2016.Google Scholar
Lomuto, Sierra. “The Mongol Princess of Tars: Global Relations and Racial Formation in The King of Tars (c. 1330),Exemplaria 31.3 (2019): 171–92.Google Scholar
Lumbley, Coral. “The ‘dark Welsh’: Color, race, and alterity in the matter of medieval Wales,” Special Issue: Critical Race and the Middle Ages, Kim, Dorothy (ed.) Literature Compass 16.910 (2019).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Otaño Gracia, Nahir. “Towards a Decentered Global North Atlantic: Blackness in Saga af Tristram ok Ísodd,” Special Issue: Critical Race and the Middle Ages, Dorothy Kim (ed.) Literature Compass 16.910 (2019).Google Scholar
Otaño Gracia, Nahir. and Armenti, Daniel. “Constructing Prejudice in the Middle Ages and the Repercussions of Racism Today,” Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 53.1 (2017): 176201.Google Scholar
Sheehan, Sarah. “Giants, Boar-hunts, and Barbering: Masculinity in ‘Culhwch ac Olwen’,” Arthuriana 15.3 (2005): 325.Google Scholar
Vernon, Matthew. The Black Middle Ages: Race and the Construction of the Middle Ages. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.Google Scholar
Whitaker, Cord. J. (ed). “Making Race Matter in the Middle Ages,” postmedieval (special issue) 6.1 (2015).Google Scholar
Whitaker, Cord. J. Black Metaphors: How Modern Racism Emerged from Medieval Race-Thinking. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019.Google Scholar

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