Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in English, Literature



Major Advisor

Linda Marie Zaerr


This work examines multiple versions of the medieval Tristan story in France, England, and Spain. Beginning with a strong historical situation for the literary analysis, the work uses elements of Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny, Edward Said’s Orientalism, and Roland Barthes’s Mythologies to identify and understand the rhetorical employment of “Oriental” flourishes in the Tristans studied. The work focuses on these Eastern influences as manifested in the characterizations of the Saracen knight Sir Palomides and in the construction, depiction, and commentary upon elements of fin’ amor that permeate the texts.

This study establishes the feasibility of intercultural exchange in the medieval world and provides an explanation for how it occurred and to what extent. It also serves as an inquiry into the rise and fall of the medieval romance genre. It traces the beginnings of troubadour lyricism from the Andalusían poets to the Aquitainian court, up to a beleaguered Britain, and back to the Iberian Peninsula and nascent Spain. The journey intertwines with the development of the Tristan story from an orally-circulated Irish legend to a ubiquitous court favorite written in a variety of tongues and retold in forms as varied as etchings, to paintings, to texts. In combining these distinct, and at times interdisciplinary, threads of inquiry, this study creates a clearer rendering of the medieval world, particularly of its public’s struggle to reconcile the ideology of the church with new ideas about love and identity.