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2023 Transforming the Discipline Award Lecture | Tirumular (Drew) Narayanan
May 12 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Transforming the Discipline Award Lecture 2023
Friday, May 12th, 2023 | 2:00PM CT | Hybrid Event
In-person: Grainger Hall, Rm. 2266 | 975 University Ave. Madison, WI
Ph.D. Candidate Tirumular (Drew) Narayanan
“Sir Palamedes the Indelibly ‘Saracen’ Knight:” Heraldry, Monstrosity, and Race in Fifteenth-Century Arthurian Romance Manuscripts
Building on the important and growing scholarship of “Race in the Middle Ages,” this chapter meditates on the deployment of Palamedes’ costume as a metaphor for his persisting racialized hybridity. Previous analysis has suggested that the former Saracen knight’s black-white checkerboard heraldic motif symbolizes his moral hybridity—simultaneously a chivalrous warrior and a Muslim. Yet if this is true and the motif represents both the knight’s good and evil aspects, how do we understand the endurance of this iconography even after Palamedes’ conversion to Christianity? The visual program provides Palamedes with an optical indelibility forever “marking” and racing him as “Saracen,” regardless of his textual religious status. The portrayal of Palamedes in scenes that precede his conversion imply this future permanence, as best demonstrated in his battle with the Saracen knight Corsabrin, a mirror of his own interior monstrosity. More importantly, at the point of baptism and beyond, the imagery reminds the viewer that baptismal waters cannot wash away the iconographic blemish of Palamedes’ Islamic alterity. Such characterizations, even of an otherwise desirable figure, speaks to medieval European anxieties regarding the status of converts, writ large.
About the award:The primary priority of this award is to recognize the contributions of emerging scholars underrepresented in the field (e.g., Graduate Students who are Black, Indigenous, Persons of Color, including International Students of Color, Queer and/or Trans, and/or are Persons with Disabilities). This award also recognizes research that challenges entrenched expectations through its method, subject matter, theoretical orientation, and/or mode of exposition and form. Priority will, thus, be given to work aimed at exposing, critiquing, and/or altering entrenched aspects of structural biases in the discipline.
*This talk is the opening for the Department of Art History Graduation Celebration.