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Medieval & Renaissance Studies Research Workshop
Los Angeles, CA 90095 United States + Google Map
“Franks that are Acclimatized are Better: Anecdotal History and Everyday Life in Usāma ibn Munqidh’s Kitab al I‘tibar”
Gina Lorenz (Graduate Student, French and Francophone Studies, UCLA)
In his Kitab al I‘tibar, the warrior, gentleman, and poet Usāma ibn Munqidh (1095-1188) describes Franks as beasts, devils, and friends. He tells tales of epic battles and shared dinner tables, of conflict and mutual understanding. What is particularly compelling about Usāma’s text is that he focuses on the particular – on everyday life and human interaction – instead of presenting an abstract, event-driven history. In this paper, I perform close readings of Usāma’s anecdotes, focusing on what I deem the micro: particular stories of embodied interaction with the Franks. Reading these anecdotes in their historical, linguistic, and cultural context allows for foregrounding how Usāma’s depictions of human interactions participate in undoing binaries, even when he himself seems to solidify these oppositions on an abstract level. I argue that taking a zoomed-in, micro approach to Crusade narratives allows us to humanize its actors and to cultivate a curious and compassionate approach when considering a period that is so often understood through a macro, East/West, Muslim/Christian binary framework.
Each CMRS Research Workshop is based on a pre-circulated research paper that the presenter—who may be a CMRS faculty member, associate, affiliate, or graduate student—wishes to discuss with colleagues. All attendees must read the paper under consideration and be prepared to contribute to the discussion.
Open to students and faculty. Click here to register to attend.