Advertisement

Saracens and Sheikhs: Romance in Context

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

Abstract

Romance was the most popular secular genre in late medieval England, and approximately 120 romances in Middle English survive today.1 Written in the vernacular, these popular texts circulated widely and enjoyed a diverse audience, composed of both elite and lower status readers and listeners. Composed, on the whole, in verse, Middle English romances flourished in the years 1350–1500 and feature stock characters, motifs, and storylines, including references to Saracens and to the East that occur with surprising regularity. In the course of my research for this book, I identified forty-two Middle English verse romances that refer to Saracens or the East, albeit in widely varying ways, including descriptions of monstrous Saracens, cross-religious battles or tournaments, the wearing of Saracen textiles, and the conversion of Saracens to Christianity. Appendix 1 details these forty-two romances, their date of composition, number of extant manuscripts, and their Saracen elements, indicating an enduring fascination with the Saracen East throughout the Middle Ages.

Keywords

Romantic Relationship Ethnic Identity British Library Romance Study Eastern World 
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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Harriet E. Hudson, “Toward a Theory of Popular Literature: The Case of the Middle English Romances,” Journal of Popular Culture 23.3 (1989): 35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Dorothee Metlitzki, The Matter of Araby in Medieval Romance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Carol F. Heffernan, The Orient in Chaucer and Medieval Romance (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2003), 2Google Scholar
  4. Anna Czarnowus, Fantasies of the Other’s Body in Middle English Oriental Romance (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2013), 20–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 4.
    Lynn Tarte Ramey, Christian, Saracen and Genre in Medieval French Literature (London: Routledge, 2001); Kinoshita, Medieval Boundaries; Heng, Empire of Magic; Calkin, Saracens; Akbari, Idols.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    For more on Bevis after the medieval period, see Jennifer Fellows, “Bevis Redivivus: The Printed Editions of Sir Bevis of Hampton,” Romance Reading on the Book: Essays on Medieval Narrative Presented to Maldwyn Mills, ed. Fellows and Maldwyn Mills (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1996), 251–268. For a comprehensive list of extant manuscript and print versions of Bevis to 1711, see Fellows, “Bevis: A Textual Survey,” Fellows and Djordjevic, 104–113.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Judith Weiss, “The Date of the Anglo-Norman Boeve de Haumtone,” Medium Aevum 55 (1986): 237–241. On the relationship between Boeve and the Middle English Bevis, see Ivana Djordjevic, “From Boeve to Bevis: The Translator at Work,” Fellows and Djordjevic, 67–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 16.
    Unless otherwise indicated, all references for the Middle English Bevis of Hampton are taken from Ronald B. Herzman, Graham Drake, and Eve Salisbury, ed., Four Romances of England (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1999). Hereafter referred to in the text as Bevis.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    All references unless otherwise indicated are from Floris and Blancheflour, Sentimental and Humorous Romances, ed. Erik Kooper (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2006). This edition is based upon the Auchinleck text, with the first 366 lines supplemented from Egerton.Google Scholar
  10. References to all other versions are from George H. McKnight ed., King Horn, Floriz and Blauncheflur, the Assumption of Our Lady (London: Oxford University Press, 1901). Hereafter referred to in the text as Floris.Google Scholar
  11. 20.
    Frances McSparran, ed., Octovian (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 41–42. All references to Octavian are from this edition. Hereafter referred to in the text as Octavian.Google Scholar
  12. 21.
    Hsu-Ming Teo, “Orientalism and Mass Market Romance Novels in the Twentieth Century,” Edward Said: The Legacy of a Public Intellectual, ed. Ned Curthoys and Debjani Ganguly (Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 2007), 279.Google Scholar
  13. 22.
    jay Dixon, The Romance Fiction of Mills and Boon 1909–1990s (London: UCL Press Ltd, 1999), 53.Google Scholar
  14. See also Juliet Flesch, From Australia with Love: A History of Modern Australian Popular Romance Novels (Fremantle: Curtin University Books, 2004), 213.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    A dedicated African American romance imprint, “Arabesque,” emerged in 1994, published by Kensington and which was subsumed into Harlequin Mills & Boon’s Kimani Press in 2005. Rita B. Dandridge and Gwendolyn E. Osborne led early scholarship on these romances (see, e.g., Dandridge, Black Women’s Activism: Reading African American Women’s Historical Romances (New York: Peter Lang, 2004)Google Scholar
  16. Osborne, “‘Women Who Look Like Me’: Cultural Identity and Reader Responses to African American Romance Novels,” Race/Gender/Media: Considering Diversity across Audiences, Content, and Producers, ed. Rebecca Ann Lind (New York: Pearson, 2004), 61–68.Google Scholar
  17. 24.
    Jessica Taylor, “And You Can Be My Sheikh: Gender, Race, and Orientalism in Contemporary Romance Novels,” Journal of Popular Culture 40.6 (2007): 1036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 25.
    Julia Bettinoti and Mari-Françoise Truel, “Lust and Dust: Desert Fabula in Romances and Media,” Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres 3.1–2 (1997), 184Google Scholar
  19. E. M. Hull, The Sheik (London: E. Nash and Grayson, 1919).Google Scholar
  20. 26.
    See Patricia Raub, “Issues of Passion and Power in E. M. Hull’s The Sheik,” Women’s Studies 21 (1992): 119–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. and Ellen Turner, “E. M. Hull and the Valentino Cult: Gender Reversal after The Sheik,” Journal of Gender Studies 20.2 (2011): 171–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 27.
    See Susan L. Blake, “What ‘Race’ Is the Sheik? Rereading a Desert Romance,” Doubled Plots: Romance and History , ed. Susan Strehle and Mary Paniccia Carden (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003), 67–85Google Scholar
  23. and Elizabeth Gargano, “‘English Sheikhs’ and Arab Stereotypes: E. M. Hull, T. E. Lawrence, and the Imperial Masquerade,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 48.2 (2006): 171–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 28.
    See, in particular, Hilary P. Dannenberg, “Nadine Gordimer’s The Pickup and the Desert Romance Tradition in Post/Colonial Anglophone Fiction,” Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa 20.1 (2008): 69–88; and Hsu-Ming Teo, “Historicizing The Sheik : Comparisons of the British Novel and the American Film,” Journal of Popular Romance Studies 1.1 (2010): n.p.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 29.
    Emily A. Haddad, “Bound to Love: Captivity in Harlequin Sheikh Novels,” Empowerment versus Oppression: Twenty-First Century Views of Popular Romance Novels, ed. Sally Goade (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007), 42–64Google Scholar
  26. Anne K. Kaler, “Conventions of Captivity in Romance Novels,” Romantic Conventions, ed. Anne K. Kaler and Rosemary E. Johnson-Kurek (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999), 86–99.Google Scholar
  27. Amira Jarmakani also briefly discusses abduction in “‘The Sheikh Who Loved Me’: Romancing the War on Terror,” Signs 35.4 (2010): 1004–1006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 30.
    Teo, “The Romance of White Nations: Imperialism, Popular Culture and National Histories,” After the Imperial Turn: Thinking With and Through the Nation, ed. Antoinette M. Burton (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 279–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hsu-Ming Teo, Desert Passions: Orientalism and Romance Novels (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012); Jarmakani, “The Sheikh Who Loved Me”Google Scholar
  30. Amira Jarmakani, “Desiring the Big Bad Blade: Racing the Sheikh in Desert Romances,” American Quarterly 63.4 (2011): 895–928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 32.
    Taylor, “Be My Sheikh,” 1042; Rachel Anderson, The Purple Heart Throbs: The Sub-Literature of Love (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1974), 189; Jarmakani, “The Sheikh Who Loved Me,” 1010.Google Scholar
  32. 34.
    “About Us,” Mills & Boon, May 29, 2015, https://www.millsandboon.co.uk/Content/ContentPage/5. The British publishing company Mills & Boon was set up in 1908 and in 1971 was bought by the Canadian company Harlequin Enterprises (established in 1949). For more on the publishing company, see Dixon, Romance Fiction; and Joseph McAleer, Passion’s Fortune: The Story of Mills and Boon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 43.
    Since the end of 2010, Mills & Boon have started to move away from formulaic title conventions. Thus, some more recently published sheikh romances have titles that do not always include the signifiers “sheikh,” “desert,” or “sultan,” for example, Abby Green, Secrets of the Oasis (Richmond: Harlequin Mills & Boon, 2011)Google Scholar
  34. and Maisey Yates, Forged in the Desert Heat (Richmond: Harlequin Mills & Boon, 2014).Google Scholar
  35. 44.
    Louise Gerard, A Sultan’s Slave (London: Mills & Boon, 1921).Google Scholar
  36. 45.
    Elizabeth Milton, Desert Quest (London: Mills & Boon, 1930)Google Scholar
  37. Maureen Heeley, Flame of the Desert (London: Mills & Boon, 1934)Google Scholar
  38. Marjorie Moore, Circles in the Sand (London: Mills & Boon, 1935).Google Scholar
  39. 47.
    Violet Winspear, Tawny Sands (London: Mills & Boon, 1970)Google Scholar
  40. Margaret Rome, Bride of the Rif (London: Mills & Boon, 1972)Google Scholar
  41. Violet Winspear, Palace of the Pomegranate (London: Mills & Boon, 1974).Google Scholar
  42. 48.
    E. S. Stevens, The Veil: A Romance of Tunisia (London: Mills & Boon, 1909).Google Scholar
  43. 49.
    E. S. Stevens, The Earthen Drum (London: Mills & Boon, 1911)Google Scholar
  44. E. S. Stevens, The Mountain of God (London: Mills & Boon, 1911)Google Scholar
  45. Ida Wylie, The Red Mirage (London: Mills & Boon, 1913)Google Scholar
  46. E. S. Stevens, Sarah Eden (London: Mills & Boon, 1914).Google Scholar
  47. 50.
    Jean Herbert, Desert Locust (London: Mills & Boon, 1951).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Amy Burge 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy Burge

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations