“Neither Fish Nor Fowl”: Representing Difference, Fabricating Sameness

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


Variations in ethnicity and religion have long been used to demarcate differences between the East and West and their inhabitants. As I have already mentioned, otherness is figured differently in Middle English romance—where religion is the primary marker of variation— and modern sheikh romance—where religion is subsumed into culture and ethnicity stands as the main difference between East and West. Yet, how is such difference represented? Indeed, a key question in medieval Orientalist romance is, how can religious variation be discerned? This chapter directly addresses this question, focusing on the way in which ethnic and religious identity can be “fabricated.” I consider three romances: two modern sheikh romances—Possessed by the Sheikh, a retelling of The Sheik, and The Sheikh’s Convenient Virgin, in which the Australian heroine is coerced into acting as the sheikh’s wife; and a Middle English romance—The King of Tars, which relates the story of a Christian princess forced to marry a Saracen Sultan and their subsequent, horrific offspring. I am concerned with how these romances enable a sexual relationship between heroes and heroines with very different ethnic and religious identities and with the ways this can produce both stability and unease. My argument is that ethnic and religious identity can be made fluid to create a hybridity in both the hero and heroine.


Skin Color Ethnic Identity Religious Identity Successful Relationship Hybrid Identity 
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© Amy Burge 2016

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  • Amy Burge

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