Demons and Saracens - Otherness in Richard Coer de Lyon

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After Peter Larkin released a new edition of the Middle English text Richard Coer de Lyon, academic discourse on this work was revitalised. This thesis adds to this discourse by analysing the narrative in terms of the postcolonial concept of Otherness, as applied to both the protagonist, the English king Richard the Lionheart, and to the Saracen (Muslim) enemy in the Third Crusade, during which the narrative largely takes places. In Richard Coer de Lyon, the king is described as having a demonic mother and king Henry II as a Christian father, which results in a struggle between Richard’s demonic self and his Christian self. This is analysed as a struggle between the Other and the Self, and contrasted with the clear Othering of the Saracens through making them seem as different as possible to the Christian ideal. This thesis also explores the possibility of Richard experiencing a narrative of exorcism throughout the crusade, in battling his inner demonic Otherness by slaying the Saracens as representations of complete Otherness. Richard goes to great lengths to make the Otherness of the Saracens very apparent through dehumanising them in various ways, thereby giving a morally unambiguous way for Richard to slaughter them in excessively violent ways. In the end, Richard can be said to have achieved exorcism through transforming himself from a violent and cruel demonic king to a true crusader king: only violent towards those that are not worthy of mercy.
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