Medieval orientalism -- perceptions of the Muslim or eastern "Other" in the Middle Ages -- has been a popular topic of scholarly inquiry in recent years. Accounts of the Crusades, and texts like the Chanson de Roland and the Travels of Sir John Mandeville are some of the works that serve as touchstones for reconstructing Latin Christian "images" of Saracens and non-European lands and peoples. What has gone largely unexamined, however, are the manuscripts in which such texts were transmitted. My talk will explore some of the new interpretive pathways opened when we take into account the full manuscript context of these individual works on European views of Islam and the non-Christian world and view them in light not only of their own philological-literary situation, but that of the other texts copied with them in a manuscript. This approach complicates our assumptions about how and why medieval copyists and readers may have used and interpreted these texts.
Friday, November 8, 2013