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The Subject of Crusade

Lyric, Romance, and Materials, 1150 to 1500

In the Middle Ages, religious crusaders took up arms, prayed, bade farewell to their families, and marched off to fight in holy wars. These Christian soldiers also created accounts of their lives in lyric poetry, putting words to the experience of personal sacrifice and the pious struggle associated with holy war. The crusaders affirmed their commitment to fighting to claim a distant land while revealing their feelings as they left behind their loved ones, homes, and earthly duties. Their poems and related visual works offer us insight into the crusaders’ lives and values at the boundaries of earthly and spiritual duties, body and soul, holy devotion and courtly love.

In The Subject of Crusade, Marisa Galvez offers a nuanced view of holy war and crusade poetry, reading these lyric works within a wider conversation with religion and culture. Arguing for an interdisciplinary treatment of crusade lyric, she shows how such poems are crucial for understanding the crusades as a complex cultural and historical phenomenon. Placing them in conversation with chronicles, knightly handbooks, artworks, and confessional and pastoral texts, she identifies a particular “crusade idiom” that emerged out of the conflict between pious and earthly duties. Galvez fashions an expanded understanding of the creative works made by crusaders to reveal their experiences, desires, ideologies, and reasons for taking up the cross.

280 pages | 14 color plates, 12 halftones | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 2020

Art: European Art

History: European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Medieval Studies


"Marisa Galvez’s The Subject of Crusade offers an original premise, that talking about crusading created a new 'idiom' which allowed speakers to explore many ideas beyond simply conquering lands for the benefit of Christendom. She invites readers to consider not only the theme of crusade addressed in specific medieval works, but also contemporary compositions. . . . This invitation is worthy, and her attempt to cover a wide swath of material opens a number of avenues for further research."


“This is a bold study that places literary forms, especially lyric and romance, into conversation with material culture to provide an account of ‘speaking crusade’: that is, the ways in which an ‘idiom’ was produced that communicates the ‘crusader subject,’ whether through poetics or the tangible form of the exotic sword, enigmatic inscription, or elaborate feast. Galvez moves smoothly across genres, as well as between theoretical framework and historical context, to produce a provocative book in which a body of literature conventionally read in terms of pilgrimage and inward penitence is instead placed in dialogue with the imagined—and real—frontiers of religious war."

Suzanne Conklin Akbari, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

“Leaving us with the impression that we never really read and thought with most of the voices that emerged from the experience of the Crusades, Galvez presents an entirely new and astoundingly rich picture of lyric texts and their ethical engagements. What she calls a descriptive historical poetics is much more than that. In an exemplary fashion, and theoretically inspiring throughout, she demonstrates how sophisticated close readings bring back to life a complex range of ethical, affective, and cultural challenges, reflected in Crusader texts and materials that in their force of articulation come to resist simple ideological appropriation. Exemplary, that is, in drawing attention to the fact that only in this reconstruction of particular voices in the contexts and intricacies of their articulation we discover the possibilities of thoughts and feelings that specific historical moments bring to bear.”

Niklaus Largier, University of California, Berkeley

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction The Courtly Crusade Idiom

Chapter One The Unrepentant Crusader: The Figure of the Separated Heart
Chapter Two Idiomatic Movement and Separation in Middle High German and Occitan Crusade Departure Lyric
Chapter Three The Heart as Witness: Lyric and Romance
Chapter Four Lancelot as Unrepentant Crusader in the Perlesvaus
Chapter Five Three Ways of Describing a Crusader-Poet: Adjacency, Genre-Existence, and Performative Reconfigurations
Chapter Six The Feast of the Pheasant as Courtly Crusade Idiom
Conclusion Toward a More Complex View of Crusade



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