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The Romance of England: Richard Coer De Lyon, Saracens, Jews, and the Politics of Race and Nation

The Romance of England: Richard Coer De Lyon, Saracens, Jews, and the Politics of Race and Nation

By Geraldine Heng

The Postcolonial Middle Ages, edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (New York, 2000)

Introduction: At the heart of one version of the thirteenth/fourteenth/fifteenth century romance, Richard Coer de Lyon – whole Middle English text recount, in romance mode, the putative history of the Third Crusade of Latin Christendom against the Islamic empire of Saladin in the Levant – is a spectacular story of cannibalism performed by the king of England, Richard I. During his siege of the Muslim-occupied city of Acre, the story goes, Richard falls ill from the travails of his sea journey to Syria, the unnatural cold and heat of the local climate, and the unsuitable “mete and Drynk” that his body endures on campaign. Richard’s illness is historically documented; but what follows as cure is purest romance.

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