Jesse Hysell

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Luigi Andrea Berto

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert F. Berkhofer III

Third Advisor

Dr. Rand Johnson

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The goal of this project is to analyze the ways different cultural groups in Sicily and southern Italy were depicted in a set of historical texts associated with the Norman takeover of those regions in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. To achieve that aim, I consider social vocabulary applied to three distinct peoples (native Italians, Greeks, and Muslims) in five sources written by Amatus of Montecassino, Geoffrey Malaterra, William of Apulia, Alexander of Telese, and Hugo Falcandus. Although recent scholarship has posited that medieval identity was often felt through a "self versus other" or "Christian versus non-Christian" dichotomy, I have not found that the actual language contained in my sources ever devolved into such simplistic, binary terms.

On the contrary, the images these medieval historians constructed were informed, contingent, and rational. The highly nuanced depictions of outsiders were informed by the style and content of their texts, contingent upon the demands of their patrons and audiences, and rational in that the authors made politically prudent choices about what to write. Though the perceptions and definitions applied to these groups of people were, admittedly, sometimes based on uninformed stereotypes, they were more often deliberately constructed images that were highly dependent on the cultural milieu in which they were created.