Bruce Holsinger, in his seminal examination of the historical and continuing interconnectedness of medieval and postcolonial studies, notes that “while scholars from certain quarters of medieval studies have begun to borrow heavily from postcolonial studies, medievalists [and medieval studies] have yet to make a significant impact on the methods, historical purview, and theoretical lexicon of postcolonialism” (1197). This observation, and a desire to effect a change in the situation it describes, is what has guided this project. It is my contention precisely that the study of the precolonial past, including its medieval manifestations, has something important to contribute to the postcolonial present. By showing how precolonial manifestations of colonialist desires in Middle English literature have been brought into the service of some contemporary Caribbean identity-building discourses, I hope to have demonstrated that medieval studies is indeed in a position to make significant and important contributions to the “methods, historical purview, and theoretical lexicon of post-colonialism.” At the same time, focusing on the precolonial past of the black Atlantic has given me the opportunity to address an area of medieval postcolonial studies that has so far received little attention, namely Middle English constructions of Africa and blacks.
KeywordsPostcolonial Theory Middle Passage Postcolonial Study Negative Construction Medieval Study
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- 3.See too L. N. Gumilev’s seminal study of the Prester John phenomenon, Searches for an Imaginary Kingdom: The Legend of the Kingdom of Prester John, R. E. F. Smith trans. ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987 ).Google Scholar
- 6.For more on this topic, including the influence of Giovanni’s map, see the “Historical Introduction” to Edward Ullendorff and Charles F. Beckingham, eds., The Hebrew Letters of Prester John (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982); and Relano 56.Google Scholar
- 9.See too Per Stromholm, “An Essay on the Medieval Mind: The Legend of Prester John,” Middelalderforum 9 (1984): 82–93.Google Scholar