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Abstract

The seven-thousand-line Middle English romance, Richard Coer de Lyon, is not often read as a text fascinated with machinery. The semi-historical, superlative, titular character and his various marvelous and deeply disturbing deeds usually claim most attention, and not without reason. There is much to examine in the heroically cannibalistic Richard, who presents a complex and often troubling vision of the ways both Englishness and the Saracen Other can be constructed within romance. Alongside these well-studied qualities, however, is a strange attention within the text to sieges and siege engines. Richard’s army is accompanied by a large, named siege tower and a countless conglomeration of throwing engines such as trébuchets, ballistas, crossbows, and mangonels. One device in particular, the mill aboard one of Richard’s ships, a machination designed to look like it grinds dead bodies, seems to perform an explicitly symbolic function. While the mill becomes a useful psychological weapon against the fictional Saracen army, I argue that it principally serves as a manifestation of some of the core ideological movements of the romance, a physical representation of the budding English identity that destroys the Saracen Other in order to create sustenance for the English community. This transformative and destructive process relies upon a body of technical knowledge shared only among the crusading army and the English reader, a manufactured community represented by the construction and operation of complex machines.

Preferred Citation Style (e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.)

Chicago

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