The Representation of Islam in Medieval Literature: Dante's The Inferno, William Langland's Piers Plowman, and Chaucer's The Man of Law's Tale

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2004-05

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Retnaningdyah, Pratiwi

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Abstract

This study aims at analyzing the binary opposition of Islam and the West as depicted in medieval literature. The study takes three authors that represent the perception of Islam in their times. In particular, Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, particularly The Inferno, William Langland’s Piers Plowman (B-Text), and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Man of Law’s Tale are selected as the primary texts of this study. Dante, Langland, and Chaucer in their works, The Inferno, Piers Plowman, and The Man of Law’s Tale, respectively, share a common purpose of defending Christianity. Dante, Langland, and Chaucer share the view of Islam as a threat to the Christian West, yet differ in their treatment to the Prophet and Muslims. To some extent, Chaucer is more enlightened than Dante and Langland. The marginalization of Islam in opposition to the Christian West and the different treatment to the Prophet Muhammad and Muslims as represented in the selected works are just a few examples of the prevailing Western views of Islam in The Middle Ages. Therefore, this question deserves an interdisciplinary analysis of the socio-historical background of the authors’ times. A cross-examination of the issues is also made by using Muslim authoritative sources to see how far Islam has been misrepresented. This approach helps explain why the binary opposition of Islam and the West has persisted up to now, despite the tremendous efforts to bridge the gap between the two.

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Medieval literature, Islamic civilization, Islam

Citation

Retnaningdyah, P. (2004). <i>The representation of Islam in medieval literature: Dante's The inferno, William Langland's Piers plowman, and Chaucer's The man of law's tale</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.

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