• The Saracen is the master trope of alterity in English literature of the Middle Ages.
    No matter how traumatising it can be, perception of otherness is a foundational
    prerequisite for identity formation. Edward Said credibly argues that human cultures
    “spin out a dialectic of self and other, the subject ‘I’ who is native, authentic, at home,
    and the object ‘it’ or ‘you,’ who is foreign, perhaps threatening, different, out there”
    (After the Last Sky, 40). There is no escape from alterity, but, as Said lucidly explains,
    representation of the Other is usually skewed because it “operates as representations
    usually do, for a purpose, according to a tendency, in a specific historical, intellectual,
    and even economic setting” (Orientalism 273). From this analytic stance, I contend
    that the religious expediencies of “racial purity” and “racial apartness” (Goldberg 72)
    in late Medieval British culture bracketed the normality of the Saracen body and made
    it a paradigm of deviancy against which the standardised morphology of the Christian
    was validated. Radical sequestration of racialised adequacy distanced the ethnically
    marked Saracens from the sphere of normalised humanity and represented them
    negatively to demarcate a fictive borderline between Christians and non-Christians.
    My purpose is to show that the alterity of the Saracen was not a fixed construct, but a
    fluid concept which was variably deployed or withdrawn depending on the failure or
    success of religious investment in the normalisation of the Other.