Marcel Elias

Marcel Elias's picture
Assistant Professor of English

Ph.D., University of Cambridge, 2017

My research explores the literary cultures of medieval England and continental Europe, often within broader Mediterranean contexts. I am particularly interested in the relations between Europe and the Islamic world, travel and crusade writing, premodern attitudes to race and religion, the history of emotions, and postcolonial studies. My first book, English Literature and the Crusades, is a study of the Middle English crusade romances produced and disseminated from the Mamlūk recovery of Acre (1291), what came to be known in Europe as the loss of the Holy Land, to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (1453). It places these romances in dialogue with a multilingual array of European writings 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 fundamental and 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. I am presently at work on two further projects. The first is a new history of European representations of Muslims and Islam during the high and later Middle Ages, entitled Unsettling Orientalism. The second is a special issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies on “New Directions in Medieval Postcolonialism.”

My essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The Review of English Studies, Speculum, 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, forthcoming in July 2024).

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

-“Cultural Resistance in Late Medieval France: Honorat Bovet on Expansionism and Race,” in Race and Ethnicity in the Late Medieval World, ed. Sarah Ifft Decker, a special issue of Digital Philology (forthcoming in 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,” The 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).

Graduate: Postcolonial Middle Ages.