Alexis Statz: ABSTRACT: “The Beloved Saracen: Reimagining the Conventional Heroine in 'Sir Bevis of Hampton' ”

Sir Bevis of Hampton, one of the most popular romances to circulate in medieval Europe, is distinctive in its engagement with the Saracen world. In particular, its heroine subverts conventional notions of gender, both historical and modern. Unlike other romantic heroines, Josian, a Saracen, acts as a guide to Bevis, a Christian knight, questioning the assumed Christian moral imperative of the romance. In many ways she is a paradox for both genre and gender: as a Saracen, she is typecast as the 'Other', the enemy, yet her mercy and compassion exceed those of the Christian hero; secondly, where romance females are typified by a lack of means and agency, Josian emerges as a figure of compelling ability and virtue.

This paper aims to explore the conflation of saintly characteristics and moral authority that powerfully transform Josian, a product of the 12th century, into a figure who scarcely finds a parallel in the medieval literature of Europe. Finally, I will examine possible conceptual origins of such an enigmatic figure of guidance, one who transcends gender, cultural, and spiritual boundaries.