Submission Date

7-20-2018

Document Type

Paper

Department

English

Faculty Mentor

Kara McShane

Comments

Presented during the 20th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 20, 2018 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

My project examines an episode of maternal cannibalism within the medieval poem The Destruction of Jerusalem. Several variations of the story of the 70 AD Roman siege of Jerusalem that include this particular episode exist; the story even has roots in the bible. I am looking at the poem within this context and noting its differences in order to best determine its intentions. This version, more so than any other I have encountered, eliminates complicating factors, such as the murder of the child or presence of male figures, in order to make its antisemitic message as direct as possible. The text consistently incorporates typology, supersession, and pointed binary oppositions in order to enforce its positive construction of Christians and its negative construction of Jews. The handling of issues of gender and food, such as the controversy surrounding transubstantiation, further support the text’s antisemitism while also revealing the influence of other contemporary concerns. The episode’s puzzling subject matter makes it difficult to decipher, especially for a modern audience, however contextualizing the poem while acknowledging the importance of binaries and typology to the text’s structure enable me to draw attention to and clarify some of the more ambiguous examples of prejudice.

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