Desiring the Other: Subjugation and resistance of the female saracen in the chanson de geste

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Most discussion of Saracen females in the chansons de geste focuses on their willing capitulation to conversion and to the desire of the male Christian. Here I examine what happens to those (relatively few) female Saracens who resist this subjugation and are either allowed to remain faithful to their Saracen lover or forced to submit, an option which is not successful. The texts are not homogenous in their responses to such resistant females. The article thus challenges conventional binary oppositions of Christian and non-Christian in these texts, which often deal with crusading themes, precisely the context when binary and confrontational attitudes are most expected. The presence in chansons de geste of women who resist the male (Christian) gaze suggests that even in this normally ideologically conservative genre there was room for a resistant ideology which did not accept the validity of the perspective of the Other but was prepared to permit its existence.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberknaa015
Pages (from-to)173-188
Number of pages16
JournalFrench Studies
Early online date24 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Feb 2020


  • Centre for Medieval Studies


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