In this new series, we ask members of Parergon‘s Early Career Committee to tell us about a Parergon article that really stood out for them and why they found it valuable for their research. In this post, Dr Keagan Brewer, Honorary Research Associate in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at The University of Sydney, shares his pick.
Lawrence Warner, “Geoffrey of Monmouth and the De-Judaized Crusade”, Parergon, vol. 21, no. 1 (2004), pp. 19–37. (DOI: 10.1353/pgn.2004.0076)
As an undergraduate, I had been aware of Lawrence Warner’s presence at the Medieval and Early Modern Centre at the University of Sydney. His was a face that I had seen around. I knew he specialised in Middle English, which I would have described at the time as ‘not my sort of thing’. Nevertheless, an enthusiastic undergraduate should read papers written by members of their department.
Warner’s paper was my first exposure to Parergon and the paper itself was incredibly interesting because I was a student of the crusades. It offered a completely novel approach to reading Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae. Having not read it at that stage, I had previously considered this text the domain of Anglo-Saxonists. The main thesis of Warner’s article is that the conquest of Britain can be construed as a ‘de-Judaized crusade’, and that this idea may have appealed to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s intended audience in a milieu of crusading and—all too frequently—anti-Jewish sentiment.
Warner notes the reliance on Old-Testament imagery in crusading literature and by Geoffrey of Monmouth, in both of which the protagonists are made to ‘out-do the Israelites’, as Warner puts it. To the undergraduate me, it was a completely novel way of thinking because it combined domains of medieval history that I considered starkly separate: Britain, crusading, Jewish history, and mythology. Warner links crusading to the Exodus, the Aeneid, the Brutus legends, and to Merlin. Britain and the Holy Land, in reality and idea, were more interconnected than I had previously believed, particularly for medieval English readers. I would recommend this piece to anyone interested in crusading, the politics of Arthurian literature, Jewish history, or the reception of Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Parergon can be accessed via Project MUSE (from Volume 1 (1983)), Australian Public Affairs – Full Text (from 1994), and Humanities Full Text (from 2008). For more information on the current issue and on submitting manuscripts for consideration, please visit https://parergon.org/