History

The Look Of The Other

Kamal, Mustapha, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 2000. 194 pages. Adviser: Monroe, James T. Publication Number: AAT 9979675

Less than a century after the emergence of Islam in Arabia, the Muslims conquered Iberia and reached the south of France. The sudden appearance of the new conquerors north of the Straits of Gibraltar cause a great deal of anxiety among the Christians of Western Europe. Once the military threat stopped, Christians sought to understand the political and religious background of their enemy. In this struggle, their first reference was the Bible. Scholars interpreted several passages of the Scriptures (for example, The Book of Daniel) in order to find solace in the prophecies they contained. But as the struggle wore on, other forms of cultural opposition appeared. Thus in France, there developed a literary genre called chansons de geste, imbued with a crusading spirit. In many of these texts, the only good Sarrasins (i.e., Muslims) are the queens and princesses who convert to Christianity after the defeat of their co-religionists.

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