Marcel Elias

Marcel Elias's picture
Assistant Professor of English, Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies

Ph.D., University of Cambridge, 2017

My research explores the relations between late medieval English literature and writings produced in continental Europe and the multiconfessional Mediterranean. In particular, I work in the areas of Middle English and Old French literature, epic and romance, crusade and travel writing (in various languages), Christian-Muslim relations, emotion studies, and postcolonial studies. My first book, English Literature and the Crusades: Anxieties of Holy War, takes as its subject the Middle English crusade romances that proliferated following the Mamlūk reconquest of Acre (1291), what came to be known in Europe as the loss of the Holy Land. It brings these romances into conversation with a vast Euro-Mediterranean archive to offer a novel account of late medieval crusade culture: as ambivalent and self-critical, animated by tensions and debates, and fraught with anxiety. These romances, I argue, uphold ideals of holy war while expressing anxieties about issues as diverse as God’s endorsement of the crusading enterprise, the conversion of crusaders to Islam, the inadequacy of Christian warriors vis-à-vis their Muslim counterparts, and the morality of violence.

My second book, Unsettling Europe: How the Muslim Counter-Crusading Movement Shaped European Culture, will intervene in current debates about practices of literary and cultural history. There is a long scholarly tradition that sees Latin Christian expansion during the high and later Middle Ages (into Islamic Spain, Sicily, the Levant, and elsewhere) as the engine of European cultural production par excellence. In dialogue with work in postcolonial studies, indigenous studies, and anthropology, Unsettling Europe will offer a different account: one that centers Muslim resistance, rather than Christian expansion. The Muslim counter-crusading movement, this book will argue, had a tremendous impact on European culture, catalyzing, among other developments, early forms of anti-Orientalism, wide-ranging critiques of Christian societies in relation to the Islamic world, new ideas about salvation, and dissenting views on expansionism and race. I introduce this book in a forthcoming Speculum essay, entitled “Unsettling Orientalism.”

Other essays that bear close or more oblique relations to my first and second books have appeared or are forthcoming in Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Digital Philology, Review of English Studies, New Medieval Literatures, Studies in Philology, The Oxford History of Poetry in English (vol. 2), and elsewhere. My research has been supported by fellowships from St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the Council for British Research in the Levant. During my PhD in Cambridge, I was a Scholar of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Selected Publications


-English Literature and the Crusades: Anxieties of Holy War, 1291-1453 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2024).

Edited Collection

-New Directions in Medieval Postcolonialism, special issue of Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 55:3 (forthcoming in September 2025).


-“Unsettling Orientalism: Toward a New History of European Representations of Muslims and Islam, c. 1200-1450,” Speculum, 100:2 (forthcoming in April 2025).

-“Second-Wave Medieval Postcolonialism,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 55:3 (forthcoming in September 2025).

-“Cultural Resistance in Late Medieval France: Honorat Bovet on Expansionism and Race,” Digital Philology 14.2 (forthcoming in fall 2025).

-“Crusade Romances and the Matter of France,” in The Oxford History of Poetry in English, vol. 2 (1150-1400), ed. Helen Cooper and Robert R. Edwards (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023), 339-55.

-“Approaches to Teaching the ‘Multicultural Middle Ages,’” co-written with Ardis Butterfield, New Chaucer Studies: Pedagogy & Profession 2 (2021), 10-27.

-“Chaucer and Crusader Ethics: Youth, Love, and the Material World,” Review of English Studies 70 (2019), 618-39.

-“Rewriting Chivalric Encounters: Cultural Anxieties and Social Critique in the Fourteenth Century,” in Romance Rewritten: The Evolution of Middle English Romance, ed. Elizabeth Archibald, Megan Leitch, and Corinne Saunders (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2018), 49-68.

-“Interfaith Empathy and the Formation of Romance,” in Emotion and Medieval Textual Media, ed. Mary Flannery (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), 99-124.

-“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.


Undergraduate: Readings in English Poetry I; The Multicultural Middle Ages (with Ardis Butterfield); Knights, Crusaders, Travelers, and Poets.

Graduate: Postcolonial Middle Ages.

updated: July 2024