Medieval Studies Workshop Talk: Sierra Lomuto
Sierra Lomuto (Rowan University) will give a talk titled “Prester John’s ‘Ornamental Personhood’ and the Racialization of Mongols in Medieval European Literature.” The target audience are both medievalists and scholars in race and ethnicity studies, but the talk is open to anyone interested.
In-person attendance is strongly encouraged.
In the mid-twelfth century, as Latin Europe’s crusader presence in the Levant began to crumble, a rumor emerged about a powerful Christian king from the far east who would save his fellow Christians from their shared enemy. The rumor turned into a legend, with the priest-king Prester John becoming one of medieval Europe’s most enduring literary inventions. Although Prester John was fictional, and his story fantastical, Europeans were invested in his veracity. Historical events fueled the legend, while the legend, in turn, impacted real geopolitical affairs. The Mongols were ensnared in this circular relation between fact and fantasy when Latin crusaders in Damietta first heard of Chinggis Khan’s sweep through Central Asia during the Fifth Crusade (1217-1221). Drawing from Anne Anlin Cheng’s theory of ornamentalism, I demonstrate how the exoticism of Prester John was mapped onto the Mongols within the discourse that introduced them to Europe in the thirteenth century, with lasting import for their racialization within the Latin European imaginary.
Sierra Lomuto will also give a seminar at 10:00am PDT on Friday, May 20, 2022. Learn more here.
Sierra Lomuto is Assistant Professor of English at Rowan University. She is preparing a book titled Exotic Allies: Mongol Alterity and Racial Formations in Medieval Literature. Her research has appeared both in peer-reviewed venues such as Exemplaria and postmedieval, and in public venues such as In the Middle and Medievalists of Color.