Bodies, Saracen giants, and the medieval romance : transgression, difference, and assimilation

Knight fighting a monsterBodies, Saracen giants, and the medieval romance : transgression, difference, and assimilation

Ayesha Raza (Université de Montréal)

Master’s Thesis, Département d’études anglaises Faculté des arts et des sciences, Université de Montréal, February (2012)


Bodies, Saracen Giants, and the Medieval Romance: Transgression, Difference, and Assimilation explores the treatment of the bodies of three Saracen giants in the romances of Roland and Vernagu (c. 1330), Sir Beues of Hamtoun (c. 1330), and The Taill of Rauf Coilyear (c. 1513-42). Through a study of the characterization of the three Saracen giants, the significance of the human body in the Middle Ages, and the practices of Christianity in accordance with the discourses and ideologies regarding the near East that existed in the medieval West, this thesis addresses how and why the romance constructs the giant as a physical marker of excess, deviance and evil. Using theories and criticisms of subjectivity and embodiment, this thesis juxtaposes the Saracen giant with the romance hero to underline an obvious similarity between the two bodies and their respective religions.


The romance hesitantly demonstrates a desire to assimilate Saracen giants into the heroic code as well as the Christian religion, but it often distrustfully chooses to remove the giant body through its death in battle. Regardless of its death or assimilation into the heroic code and Christianity, the Saracen giant’s body forever remains meaningful for the romance, as it always contributes to the construction of the romance hero’s identity, faith and society.

Click here to read this thesis from the Université de Montréal