Date of Submission

Spring 2023

Academic Program

Literature; Human Rights

Project Advisor 1

Karen Sullivan

Project Advisor 2

Thomas Keenan

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The desire for the exceptional individual represented is analyzed in this project. The texts in this senior project represent how it is the systems of governance in place, especially during the medieval era in the East and Western-Europe, that celebrate this paradoxical position that the exceptional individual holds within the confines of a structured society. They embrace the chaos these exceptional individuals represent in a way that modern day justice systems find it hard to fathom. The Western-European feudal system encourages hero figures, like Roland, Lancelot, and William Marshal, to emerge from the average honorable man. Similarly in a system seemingly alternate to its Western-European counterpart, the Eastern system of justice, informed by the Holy Law and Islamic jurisprudence, not only allows the common man to be exceptional but rather any man, even the sultans meant to uphold the law. It contains an equalizing nature for all Muslims existing within the Islamic belief system. In Western-European, the exceptional individual who exists outside of the system while also upholding it more often than not must be a nobleman who is either a knight or a common man. It is rare to see a king as an exceptional individual who is applauded for existing outside of the system for the system stems from the throne. The premise of power in Western-Europe comes from the king and thus must be upheld to a degree not attributed to the common man, by said king. In the East, however, while distinction is made between vassal and lord, sultan and commoner, they are all equal in the eyes of their ultimate Lord, Allah (SWT), with this belief acting as the ultimate unifier allowing for even a sultan to be a chaotic individual existing outside of the system yet still an integral part of it. Ultimately however, both of these set structures of justice, to different degrees, promote exceptionalism in individuals in a manner that would be considered rebellion in our modern day. This project works to prove that there has always been a desire in history for the exceptional even if it breaks the rule of law.

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Open Access

Creative Commons License

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