Ecstatic Transformation: On the Uses of Alterity in the Middle Ages

Series: New Middle Ages

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This book studies the way in which medieval ways of knowing the Oriental 'other' were constructed around the idea of a utopic East as located in the legend and Letter of Prester John (c. 1160). The birth of utopic thinking, it argues, is tied to an understanding of alterity having as much to do with the ways the medieval West understood itself as the manner in which the foreign was mapped. Drawing upon the insights of cultural studies, film studies, and psychoanalysis, this book rethinks the contours of the known and the unknown in the medieval period. It demonstrates how the idea of otherness intersected in intricate ways with other categories of difference (spatial, gender, and religious). Scholars in the fields of history as well as literary and religious studies will be interested in the manner in which the book considers the formal dimensions of how histories of the Oriental other were written and lived.