Dr Marcel Elias, St Catharine's



Biographical Information

I am the Jeremy Haworth Research Fellow at St Catharine’s College. I came to Cambridge for my PhD as a Gates Scholar in 2013, following a BA and an MA at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. My current book project, entitled The Crusades in Medieval English Romance: Emotion, Morality, and Providence, explores public attitudes to the crusades in the later Middle Ages through an investigation of the Middle English crusading romances, with a particular focus on their emotional rhetoric. The succession of setbacks, frustrations, and defeats that culminated in the evacuation of the last Christian stronghold in the Levant at the end of the thirteenth century gave rise to an ideological deadlock: why had God persistently neglected to reward those who fought wars on his behalf with victory? Unwavering belief in divine providence allowed for only two possibilities: that God’s agents on earth were inadequate, or—more horrifyingly—that God himself was to blame. The crusading romances produced and disseminated in England after the fall of Acre in 1291 grapple with the fraught implications of both positions. Reworking the emotional depictions of their sources, authors or adaptors of Middle English crusading romances engaged with, and solicited reflections on, the prevailing anxieties of the time: God’s support for the enterprise, the workings of divine providence, Christianity’s ascendancy over Islam, the role and significance of human agency, the connection between morality and fortune, the bearing of motives on actions, and the moral challenges of violence. 

Alongside this project, I have articles in preparation on Chaucer and crusading ethics, and on Gower’s pacifism. I am also beginning a new project on religious conversion in insular and continental European literature spanning the twelfth through sixteenth centuries.

Research Interests

The literature and history of the crusades; medieval attitudes to race and religion; religious conversion; chivalric literature and culture; the history of emotions, vices, and virtues; Middle English and Anglo-Norman romance; chansons de geste; processes of translation and adaptation.

Selected Publications

‘Crusade Romances and the Matter of France’, in The Oxford History of Poetry in English, vol. 2, ed. Helen Cooper and Robert Roy Edwards (Oxford: Oxford University Press, in progress)

‘Rewriting Chivalric Encounters in Fourteenth-Century Romance’, in Romance Rewritten: Essays for Helen Cooper, ed. Elizabeth Archibald, Megan Leitch, and Corinne Saunders (Cambridge: Brewer, forthcoming 2018)

‘Romance Adaptation, Emotional Interpolations, and Blurring the Christian-Saracen Divide’, in Emotion and Medieval Textual Media, ed. Mary Flannery (Turnhout: Brepols, forthcoming 2018).

‘Violence, Excess, and the Composite Emotional Rhetoric of Richard Coeur de Lion’, Studies in Philology 114:1 (2017), 1-38.

‘Mixed Feelings in the Middle English Charlemagne Romances: Emotional Reconfiguration and the Failures of Crusading Practices in the Otuel Texts’, New Medieval Literatures 16 (2016), 172-212

‘The Case of Anger in The Siege of Milan and The King of Tars’, Comitatus 43 (2012), 41-56