Romancing the Abduction Motif

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


As Anne K. Kaler writes: “it happens all the time.”1 A fictional heroine is physically abducted, kept captive by a man who is often the hero himself. The captivity narrative, in which a person is abducted by a captor considered to be “uncivilized” and who is usually nonwhite, has a long history in world literature, from early modern stories of pirate captivity off the Barbary coast, to narratives of the captivity of white settlers by Native Americans: narratives that frequently featured the abduction of women. Consider, for instance, the sixteenth-century narratives in Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations (1589), or the seventeenth-century A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs Mary Rowlandson (1682), arguably the most well-known American captivity narrative. One region persistently connected with abduction in the modern Western popular imagination is the East; since early European translations of the captive Scheherazade’s stories in the Arabian Nights (1706), the Middle East and North Africa have become synonymous with a particular type of exotic, erotic captivity. The association of the Islamic East with abduction and captivity is a key motif of both the modern and medieval Orientalist romance: the violence of the relationship between captor and captive mirrors the difference between East and West, Christian and Saracen. The popularity of the abduction motif in sheikh romance would be enough to justify its examination.


Romantic Relationship Sexual Violence Sexual Encounter Fourteenth Century Eastern Culture 
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© Amy Burge 2016

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  • Amy Burge

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