Al-Andalus in Modern Fiction (UG, Spring 2014)

moros barclays

In recent years, the idea of “the three cultures” of medieval Spain — namely the three Abrahamic faiths, Christianity, Islam and Judaism — has become a popular ideal and model for modernity among a wide variety of thinkers and writers; and both utopian and distopian visions of Sefarad and Andalus (the Hebrew and Arabic terms that refer to the Iberian Peninsula) permeate discourses on politics, religion and even education. This course will examine the ways inwhich that nostalgia for a lost Andalus or Sefarad is both explored as a theme and used as a device in a wide variety of modern novels and short stories (as well as some poetry), and the ways in which modern authors deploy this trope to comment on the worlds they inhabit. Reading medieval Spanish texts alongside the writing they inspired in modernity will provide a diachronic framework for better understanding medieval Iberian literature and will also raise questions about the salience of the past for the present. Modern readings will include The Moor’s Last Sigh (Salman Rushdie), Averroes’ Search (Jorge Luis Borges), the Tamarit Diwan (Federico Garcia Lorca), and others. (Click here for a syllabus.)

Introduction to Medieval Literature: Faith and Text in the Spanish Middle Ages (G, Spring 2014)

This is a graduate-level introduction to the historical and literary panorama of the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages. Our touchstones in this vast sea of material will be the loci of contact between faith and text as they present themselves in the intellectual lives of medieval Spanish readers and writers. This course will seek to expose students to some of the major debates within the field of Hispano-Medievalism, broadly defined, and will ground those debates contextually in a set of case studies that look at how members of the three Abrahamic faiths approached the joint tasks of religious devotion and writing, and the sophisticated ways in which they balanced the requirements of faith with the pull of literature and rationalism. Although the series of case studies we will consider will necessarily not be able to provide students with a comprehensive picture of the Spanish Middle Ages, the ultimate goal of the course is for students to have a basic sense of the scope and range of medieval texts and theoretical and methodological approaches to them to serve as background for further study, either of the Middle Ages or of later periods.     (Click here for a syllabus.)

Islamic Spain: Literature and Society (UG, Fall 2013)

This course will offer intermediate- and upper-level students an introductionto the literatures and cultures of medieval Spain, with particular focus on those that flourished inareas under Muslim rule. In addition to reading literature, we will consider the ways in which literary texts functioned in society as well as the ways in which in they can be read as a reflection of socialand historical concerns. Students will read canonical works of literature alongside other types of  writing, such as economic and historical documents and will have the opportunity to considermaterial and artistic evidence alongside the textual record. Because of the joint focus on society alongside literature, students will have the opportunity to make use of many cultural and historicalresources in New York City and the greater metropolitan area in the form of visits to museums,libraries and other relevant sites. Topics covered may include: interactions between Jews, Christians,and Muslims; the roles of women and the family in the Middle Ages; multilingualism; concepts of kingship and just rule; depictions of heroism and vanity; religious observance and practice; and therise of early forms of national identity. (Click here for a syllabus.)

Spain in 1492 (Freshman Honors Seminar, Fall 2013)

The year 1492 in Spain is the very definition of a watershed. Four major, related eventstook place that completely altered the social, political, religious, intellectual, literary and linguistic landscape:the city of Granada, the last Muslim principality in Spain, fell to the Catholic crown of Castile and Leon; theorder was signed and carried out expelling or forcing the conversion of Spain’s Jews; with Spanish backing,Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to the New World; and the first grammar of a vernacularRomance language, Castilian, appeared in print and was dedicated to the queen in honor of her imperialambitions. This course will examine literary and historical writing about these events. Through careful reading of primary sources and attention to modern historians’ rhetoric in writing about 1492, students in thisseminar will explore how these events were implicated in the formation of national and religious identities inlate medieval and early modern Spain. Reading in a wide variety of genres will give way to diverse writing assignments in a variety of genres to help prepare students for further coursework in the humanities. (Click here for a syllabus.)