Testing the Borders of Tolerance: Chivalry Glazed with Monstrosity, Violence and Cruelty in Richard Coer de Lyon
Keywords:Monster, Romance, Crusades, Chivalry, Richard I.
Monstrosity is an elusive term that is interlocked with the concept of normality. As a cultural construct, monster’s elusiveness stems from its contingency to spatio-temporal parameters that are ever-changing so that the normative self’s attempt at constructing an enclosed identity is essentially vulnerable. The normative self’s continued attempts to attribute monstrosity to the other to establish an enclosed and normative selfhood invariably fail because the fluidity of monstrous identity disrespects any of the constructed boundaries between the self and the other. Accordingly, in the romance genre, monstrous identity is inextricably linked with the chivalrous identity. Analysis of monstrosity is a useful lens for exposing the discursive boundaries between the two, and displaying that chivalry is an ideal impossible to maintain. This is especially because the formulation of chivalric identity is based on malleable precepts such as moral, cultural, religious norms and performative compliance or deviance enable transition across the constructed boundaries between the knight and the monstrous other. This article defines monstrosity as excess, lack, or deviance from chivalric behaviour so that subjects are rendered monstrous due to becoming sources of undeserved harm or violence. From this perspective, this article analyses the fluidity of chivalrous and monstrous identities in Richard Coer de Lyon. Crusades offer symbolic and literal spaces of alterity and convergence between the East and the West in perpetual contestation. However, the attributed monstrosity of the Saracen against the moral superiority of the Christian knight is a fragile binary that is not static but in constant negotiation that makes it fluid. This fluidity is investigated through the conformity or non-conformity of Richard and other European rulers to chivalric principles and monstrosity in the romance.
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