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Geraldine Heng

Core FacultyPh.D., Cornell University

Associate Professor in the Department of English, College of Liberal Arts
Geraldine Heng



Literary, cultural and social encounters between worlds; webs of exchange and negotiation between communities and cultures when transacted through issues of gender, race, sexuality, and religion; Medieval Europe’s discoveries and rediscoveries of Asia and Africa


Geraldine Heng is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Director of Medieval Studies and the holder of the Perceval endowment for Medieval Romance, Historiography, and Culture, an endowment created to support her research and teaching.

She is also Founder and Co-director of the Global Middle Ages Project (G-MAP), the Mappamundi cybernetic initiatives, and the Scholarly Community for the Globalization of the Middle Ages (SCGMA):

Heng's teaching has included courses on the literatures and political cultures of the crusades, the genealogies and texts of medieval romance, the literatures of medieval England, Chaucer, medieval biography, premodern race and race theory, transcultural medieval travel narratives, and feminist theory and third world feminisms.

In 2004, she designed, coordinated, and taught in “Global Interconnections: Imagining the World 500-1500 CE,” an experimental interdisciplinary graduate seminar collaboratively taught by seven faculty to introduce an interconnected premodern world spanning Europe, Islamic civilizations, Mahgrebi  and SubSaharan Africa, India, China, and the Eurasian continent.

Heng’s research focuses on literary, cultural, and social encounters between worlds, and webs of exchange and negotiation between communities and cultures, particularly when transacted through issues of gender, race, sexuality, and religion.  She is especially interested in medieval Europe’s discoveries and rediscoveries of Asia and Africa.  Her book, Empire of Magic, traces the development of a medieval  literary genre—European romance, and, in particular, the King Arthur legend—in response to the traumas of the crusades and crusading history, and Europe’s myriad encounters with the East.  She is completing two books: a book theorizing premodern race and racial-religious difference, and a book on medieval England as a global site, traced through its literature.



WGS 340 • Envisn Muslims:mid Age/Today

46055 • Fall 2015
Meets M 600pm-900pm PAR 105
(also listed as E 360S, ISL 372)

E 360S  l  3-Envisioning Muslims: The Middle Ages and Today

Instructor:  Heng, G

Unique #:  34575

Semester:  Fall 2015

Cross-lists:  ISL 372, MES 342, R S 357, WGS 340

Flags:  Global Cultures

Restrictions:  n/a

Computer Instruction:  No

Prerequisites: Nine semester hours of coursework in English or rhetoric and writing.

Description: Our course will survey how Muslims are represented in the dominant cultural media of two important periods: the period known in the West as the European Middle Ages—a time in which Europe first became conscious of Muslims through Islamic invasions, multiple forms of cultural contact and negotiation, and the international wars known as “the Crusades”—and in the contemporary world of the 20th and 21st centuries, when Muslims have, once again, become prominent in the Western imagination.

In the medieval period, we will read selections from European chronicles and romances, a Byzantine biography, Arab histories and biographies, and other cultural media, including illustrations and maps, to see how Europeans envisioned Muslims, and how Muslims envisioned themselves. In the contemporary period, we will view clips from digital media representing several genres—silent film, Hollywood action adventure movies, biographies, television comedy, musicals, Disney animation—to see how, and if, modern representations of Muslims differ from premodern representations. We will also view how Muslims represent themselves in digital media, including clips from Youssef Chahine’s “Saladin” and the Axis of Evil comedy tour.

Texts listed here are suggestive, not final. All premodern texts read in modern English translation. Chahine’s “Saladin” has English subtitles.

Texts: (tentative) Selections from Latin crusade chronicles; Autobiography of Usamah; Selections from Arab historians of the crusades; Anna Comnena, The Alexiad; Richard Coer de Lyon; Beha ad-Din, Biography of Saladin; Roman de Saladin; Sultan of Babylon; King of Tars; Ibn Fadlan, Journey to the Rus; secondary readings.

Digital Media: (tentative) The Sheik; Kismet; Aladdin; Lawrence of Arabia; Saladin (Chahine’s); Kingdom of Heaven; The Kingdom; Paradise Now; Caramel; Axis of Evil comedy tour.

Requirements & Grading: Course requirements: a term paper of at least 12 pages (50%), 1 or 2 in-class presentations (30%), attendance (10%) and active participation (10%).


Global England: A Literary Archeology of the Global Middle Ages, in progress.

The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages, in progess.

Race and the Middle Ages. University of Toronto Press and the Medieval Academy of America, 2012.

"The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages II: Locations of Medieval Race." Forthcoming in Literature Compass, the Global Circulation Project.

"The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages I: Race Studies, Modernity, and the Middle Ages." Forthcoming in Literature Compass, the Global Circulation Project.

"Holy War Redux: The Crusades, Futures of the Past, and Strategic Logic in the 'Clash' of Religions." PMLA May 2011.

pdf"The Global Middle Ages." Special Issue on Experimental Literary Education.  Ed Jeffrey Robinson.  ELN 47:1, 2009.

"An Experiment in Collaborative Humanities: 'Global Interconnections: Imagining the World 500-1500. ADFL Bulletin, 38(3), December 2007.

"Jews, Saracens, 'Black men,' Tartars: England in a World of Racial Difference, 13th-15th Centuries," A Companion to Medieval English Literature, c. 1350-c.1500, ed. Peter Brown, Blackwell 2005.


''Music to My Ears: Pleasure, Resistance, and Feminist Aesthetics in Reading.'' Cambridge Companion to Feminist Literary Theory. ed. Ellen Rooney. Cambridge UP, 2006.

"The Romance of England: Richard Coer de Lyon, Saracens, Jews, and the Politics of Race and Nation," The Postcolonial Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Cohen, Garland (2000).


"Cannibalism, the First Crusade, and the Genesis of Medieval Romance," differences 10.1, 1998.


"'A Great Way to Fly': Women, Nationalism, and the Varieties of Feminism in Southeast Asia." Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures (pp.30-45). eds. M. Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade, Mohanty, Routledge, 1996 (republished, translated).


"A Woman Wants: The Lady, Gawain, and the Forms of Seduction." Yale Journal of Criticism, 5(3), 101-134 (September 1992).


"Feminine Knots and the Other Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." PMLA: Publication of the Modern Language Association of America, 500-514 (May 1991).


''State Fatherhood: The Politics of Nationalism, Sexuality, and Race in Singapore'', Nationalisms and Sexualities, eds. Andrew Parker, Mary Russo, Doris Sommer, Patricia Yeager, Routledge 1991 (republished eight times; translated into other languages).


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