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Saracens and Conversion

Hathaway, Stephanie L.

Saracens and Conversion

Chivalric Ideals in Aliscans and Wolfram’s Willehalm

Series: Studies in Old Germanic Languages and Literature - Volume 6

Year of Publication: 2012

Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2012. VIII, 432 pp.
ISBN 978-3-0343-0781-9 pb.  (Softcover)

Weight: 0.650 kg, 1.433 lbs

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Book synopsis

At the heart of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Willehalm are Saracens: instrumental figures in the driving themes of conquest, loyalty, vassalage, chivalry, love-service and redemption that run through the text. When compared with Wolfram’s French sources, La Prise d’Orange and Aliscans, Willehalm is revealed to be innovative yet true to the themes and figures of the original chansons de geste, indicating that Wolfram continued the retelling process that also played a part in the composition of his French sources.
This book explores the role of Saracens in these texts, the implications of their conversion to Christianity and the portrayal of the ideals of chivalry as their depiction undergoes development from twelfth-century France to thirteenth-century Germany. The text begins with the cultural-historical setting and the development of key ideals and concepts and then analyses the Saracen figures in the texts, presenting an integrated reading of Willehalm and its source material and revealing Wolfram’s intentions in his depiction of Saracens.


Contents: Conversion and Conquest; The Texts: Aliscans, La Prise d’Orange, Willehalm – Europe and the Saracens: Points of Contact; The Role of Conversion – Chivalry and Crusades: Harmony and Spirituality; Ethics of Chivalry Put to the Test: The Crusades – Rewriting the Chansons de geste: From Aliscans to Willehalm; Wolfram’s Answer to a Problem – The Saracen as Protagonist: Four Saracen Kings; Gyburg’s Kinsmen – The Saracen Queen: The Image of Gyburg; Kinship, Duty and Influence; The Queen and Her Knight.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

Stephanie L. Hathaway lectures in German at the University of Oxford. She completed a PhD at the University of Sydney in 2009 and has published articles about Saracens in the chansons de geste and medieval German epic, medieval queens and the depiction of monastic rules.


Studies in Old Germanic Languages and Literatures. Vol. 6
General Editor: Irmengard Rauch