Hispanic Cultures I: Iberian Orientalism: From the Ancient Silk Road to the Transoceanic Encounters


The objective of Spanish 3349 is to provide students with the historical and cultural fundaments of Hispanic cultures starting in the late Antiquity up to 1700. During the semester, we will study textual, and visual artifacts with the purpose of acquiring the knowledge of key social, political, scientific, and religious events that happened in the Iberian Peninsula and the Spanish overseas territories before the 18th century. The larger purpose of the course is to prepare students to do advanced work and develop research projects in later courses on the cultures of the Iberian worlds.

This course will introduce students to the cultural production of the Hispanic Cultures before 1700. During the semester, we will analyze travel narratives, literary accounts, maps, chronologies, historical events, paintings, and illustrated codices from the late antiquity to the early modern period. Taking Edward Said’s Orientalism as a departure point, the course will address a series of questions related to the cultural representations that are the bases of pre-modern Iberian perceptions and depictions of the East: How did notions associated with East and West change throughout history? Can we speak about Orientalism in a pre-Eurocentric world? Is there any relation between dynamics related to Westernization and the ancient imaginaries associated with the East? What does it mean to represent other people from remote worlds? These questions will be examined by adopting an interdisciplinary approach and combining topics related to globalization, race, religion, ethnicity, and gender.

Among other authors, scholars, and painters, we will see Isidore of Seville, Ramón Lull, Hieronymus Bosch, Christopher Columbus, Bartolomé de Las Casas, El Greco, Miguel de Cervantes, and Diego de Velázquez. We will also explore several cartographical projects, codices, and manuscripts, such as Martin Behaim’s Green Globe, Abraham Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, and the Florentine Codex. Among modern scholars, we will discuss the theoretical insights of Edward Said, Aby Warburg, Peter Sloterdijk, Carl Schmitt, Serge Gruzinski, and Fernando R. de la Flor.

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