Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Legend of Saladin in Western Literature and Historiography

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Legend of Saladin in Western Literature and Historiography

Article excerpt

Margaret Jubb, The Legend of Saladin in Western Literature and Historiography (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000). xiv + 263 pp. ISBN 0-7734-7686-5. $89.95.

Margaret Jubb's study of the legendary figure of Saladin does two things. Firstly, it presents an apparently comprehensive account of the various aspects of `the Saladin legend', and conveniently collects together, and often summarizes, those texts in which this legend is conveyed. Secondly, it raises significant questions about the relationship between legend and 'history' in such a case. The first of these two elements is the book's avowed intention. Here, the strength of this study lies in the detailed analysis of literary sources; these range across a variety of languages, and extend from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries. For anyone wishing to pursue aspects of the admittedly reasonably well-known Saladin myth, the book thus constitutes an admirable starting point. The weakness of the approach is, perhaps inevitably, that a fair proportion of the volume is devoted to summaries of plots of texts presumably expected to be unfamiliar to readers. At times, indeed, the narrative does become somewhat bogged down in reporting rather than analysing the material under examination. The second achievement of the book, namely the highlighting of difficulties of differentiation between legend and history, is possibly an unintended dimension of this volume. Whilst there are passing references to the complexities inherent in the distinction between fiction and history (especially problematic in the Middle Ages), for example to the work of Suzanne Fleischmann, the issue is not as central in this study as the subject matter might be thought to have required. …

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