In Medieval Boundaries, Sharon Kinoshita examines the
role of cross-cultural contact in twelfth- and early
thirteenth-century French literature. Starting from the observation
that many of the earliest and best-known works of the French
literary tradition are set on or beyond the borders of the
French-speaking world, she reads the Chanson de Roland,
the lais of Marie de France, and a variety of other texts
in an expanded geographical frame that includes the Iberian
peninsula, the Welsh marches, and the eastern Mediterranean. In
Kinoshita's reconceptualization of the geographical and cultural
boundaries of the medieval West, such places become significant not
only as sites of conflict but also as spaces of intense political,
economic, and cultural negotiation.
An important contribution to the emerging field of medieval
postcolonialism, Kinoshita's work explores the limitations of
reading the literature of the French Middle Ages as an inevitable
link in the historical construction of modern discourses of
Orientalism, colonialism, race, and Christian-Muslim conflict.
Rather, drawing on recent historical and art historical
scholarship, Kinoshita uncovers a vernacular culture at odds with
official discourses of crusade and conquest. Situating each work in
its specific context, she brings to light the lived experiences of
the knights and nobles for whom this literature was first composed
and-in a series of close readings informed by postcolonial and
feminist theory-demonstrates that literary representations of
cultural encounters often provided the pretext for questioning the
most basic categories of medieval identity.
Awarded honorable mention for the 2007 Modern Language Association
Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone
Subjects: Language & Literature
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