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Exchanges in Exoticism

Exchanges in Exoticism: Cross-Cultural Marriage and the Making of the Mediterranean in Old French Romance

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Exchanges in Exoticism
    Book Description:

    Exchanges in Exoticismdemonstrates how the process of cultural exchange - and empire building - extends well beyond our traditional assumptions about gender roles in the medieval Mediterranean.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6136-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-19)

    At dusk on 13 April 1204 Constantinople lay in a smoking rubble, burnt, pillaged, and assaulted by the western Crusaders who had sworn oaths to leave the world’s richest Christian city unscathed. As Byzantines wailed and their city burned, the Frankish and Venetian families at the forefront of its demise began a frenzied race to divvy up the spoils of conquest. They scrambled to claim the city’s wondrous relics, textiles, and gold, as well as its women, whom they saw as their main access to legitimization and power. That night soldiers sacked the Hagia Sofia, broke its renowned altar into...

  5. 1 Women and the Making of Mediterranean Identities in Cligès and Digenis Akritas
    (pp. 20-49)

    “Einc mielz nel firent nules dames” [“Never did women do better”].¹ With these five words, Chrétien de Troyes interruptsCligèsto judge a women’s rebellion, lauding more than two thousand Byzantine women who storm the imperial palace to save their German-born empress from being tortured to death by Salernian doctors. His interjection is unusual for its endorsement of many things romance as a genre usually resists: female agency, political rebellion, and plebeian success. In the space of five words an interpretive gesture is born, one that imagines a place within romance for the agency of women, a space in which...

  6. 2 Exchanging Exoticism: Narrating Mediterranean Nobility in Floire et Blancheflor
    (pp. 50-79)

    The twelfth-century Old French romanceFloire et Blancheflordepicts how a pagan boy’s love for a Christian maiden leads him to convert his kingdom to Christianity out of love for her. It has long been read as a story of cross-religious love and conversion. Most obviously at stake in this text are a Christian military victory over Islam and a romantic victory over a foreign other in the context of cross-cultural love. It would be easy to read the story as another iteration of the basic storyline ofCligès, in which marriages spanning the Mediterranean become spaces through which women’s...

  7. 3 Masculinities and the Geographies of Empire in Thirteenth-Century Incest Romances
    (pp. 80-101)

    While twelfth-century romances such asCligès,Digenis, andFloire et Blancheflorwere written before the fall of Constantinople in 1204 and figured marriage with various “easts” as a fertile site for both ideological and mercantile exchange, as the Crusades wore on and victories by French-speaking households diminished, literature commissioned in these courts began to imagine the near east in more negative terms.¹ Yet even as Byzantium’s exoticism – from its fantastic exotic goods to its rapidly depleted golden coffers to its architectural, sericultural, and artistic influence – began to wane, thirteenth-century Old French literature imagined women to be as active in making...

  8. 4 Rewriting Mediterranean Gender and Power in Floriant et Florete
    (pp. 102-119)

    As we have seen, twelfth-century romances such asCligèsandFloire et Blancheflorexplore the connections between Mediterranean exoticism and the genealogy of French nobility. By the thirteenth century, however, Old French romances reimagine the Frankish nobility as glorious not for its relationship to a genealogy articulated through a Mediterranean past, but for its mastery of the Mediterranean present. In particular, one old French romance,Floriant et Florete, explores a fundamentally medieval and Celtic hero, King Arthur, as an archetype for negotiating Mediterranean politics in thirteenth-century Sicily. Unlike earlier romances, which alluded to the power of the Greek myths – from...

  9. Conclusion: Rereading the Intersections of the Mediterranean
    (pp. 120-128)

    The Chronicle of Moreais an early fourteenth-century narrative account of the establishment of the thirteenth-century Frankish crusader state of Morea in what is today the Greek Peloponnesus. Purportedly a historical account of the establishment and governance of a French colony in Greece, the narrative is full of inaccurate historical reporting and confusing dates, participants, and even locations. Quotes like those above, in which Moreots complain bitterly about both the Frankish (called Latin) and the Greek (called Roman) overlords, suggest that empirical expansion, conquest, and governance across lines of culture and religion were anything but transparent or facile. Yet nestled...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 129-162)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-180)
  12. Index
    (pp. 181-184)