That Medieval Iberian Thing


What are the contributions and challenges of Medieval Studies to the field of Iberian Studies—and to contemporary critical thought? This challenge has frequently been invoked as convivencia, a concept that roughly, albeit inadequately, translates as coexistence.

The term was deployed occasionally in the early twentieth century and it arose, more or less as we know it, in Ramón Menéndez Pidal’s Orígenes del español (1926). There, the notion of convivencia was cast as a linguistic line of inquiry: how did different languages coexist in the same territory, and how did they interact productively? This Iberian Medieval Thing is a theoretical and historical meditation on contemporary forms of convivencia that transcends the coexistence of languages, religions, and cultures to address gender, race, and what David Nirenberg called communities of violence. The seminar will also foster a conversation from the perspective that the Iberian thing is not something exceptional, and that it is critical to expand the context of the Iberian peninsula and its cultural production. While dealing with translations, transactions, boundaries, networks, etc., we will immediately see the importance of understanding the Ibernianness of cultures around and beyond the Iberian Peninsula. Throughout the semester, we will discuss vernacular cultures and the concept of vernacularism, the challenges of competing languages, the politics of translation, Iberian Studies, Cultural Studies, the role of literature as well as transactions and boundaries.

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