Romance in the East: An Introduction

  • Amy Burge
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Europe is obsessed by the East. A space of sensual temptation, danger, and adventure, the Orientalized East is defined by its strangeness, its difference. For hundreds of years, Western and European popular culture has been fascinated and appalled, in equal measure, by the apparent religious, racial, cultural, social, and political alterity of the Orient. We are locked in a double bind of desire and difference. This contradiction finds particular expression in two distinct but related popular genres—;Middle English romance and modern sheikh romance—;each of which explores questions of ethnicity, religion, and gender through a cross-cultural or cross-religious relationship. Middle English romance, one of the most widely consumed secular genres in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England, contains romantic relationships between Saracens (fictional Muslim characters) and Christians against a background of conflict with the echo of the Crusades.1 The so-called sheikh romance is a love story set in the deserts of North Africa or the Middle East, featuring an erotic relationship between a Western heroine and an Eastern sheikh or sultan hero.2 The genre is unique, in the twenty-first century, in imagining a cross-cultural romantic relationship occurring at a time when Western, post-9/11 attitudes toward the region are concerned more with conflict than with romance.


Romantic Relationship Gender Identity Religious Identity Religious Difference Postcolonial Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Amy Burge 2016

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