The paradoxical exemplar : the image of Saladin in Don Juan Manuel's El conde lucanor
Don Juan Manuel’s laudatory portrayal of Saladin, the Muslim Sultan of Babylon, in Exempla 25 and 50 of El Conde Lucanor presents an interesting paradox, particularly when considering that the fourteenth-century text was intended as moral instruction for a Christian audience. This report addresses this paradox by determining Saladin’s placement within Juan Manuel’s moral and spiritual philosophy through textual and comparative character analyses. The first section applies Victor Turner’s social drama theory in a textual analysis of Exempla 25 and 50 to establish Juan Manuel’s representation of Saladin as a triumphant figure, capable of meeting and overcoming challenges to his honor and virtue. The second section applies M. M. Bakhtin’s concept of dialogism to engage in a closer examination of Saladin’s “voice” in relation to other characters of Juan Manuel’s exempla for the purpose of revealing the ambiguities and finer intricacies of Saladin’s character. These analyses serve to raise and address paradoxical questions relating to Juan Manuel’s presentation of Saladin as both a Muslim adversary and friend of Christendom.