Cultural Trauma and Christian Identity in the Late Medieval Heroic Epic, The Siege of Jerusalem
Literature and Medicine
This essay examines scenes of violence in the late medieval poem The Siege of Jerusalem in order to reveal the ways in which trauma is used as the grounds upon which Christian/Jewish difference is established. In particular, I argue that this poem serves as an example of a widespread element in Christian chivalric identity, namely the need to manage the repetitive invocation of Christ’s crucifixion (ritually repeated through liturgical and poetic invocation) as a means of asserting both the bodily and psychic integrity of the Christian subject in contrast to the violently abjected figure of the Jewish body. The failure of The Siege protagonist, Wespasian, to navigate the cultural trauma of the crucifixion is contrasted to the successful management of trauma by the martial hero, Tancred, in Tasso’s epic, Gerusalemme Liberata, illustrating the range of imaginative possibilities for understanding trauma in pre-modern war literature.
DeMarco, Patricia, "Cultural Trauma and Christian Identity in the Late Medieval Heroic Epic, The Siege of Jerusalem" (2015). English Faculty Work. 15.
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