Overview

I am a literary critic and cultural historian of medieval Spain. My work seeks to unify the languages and literary traditions of the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages, namely Arabic, Hebrew, and the Ibero-Romance dialects, into a coherent and unitary panorama of literary and cultural production in that time and place. I situate myself in the field of Andalusi Studies, one that often operates in the long shadow of the scholarly debates about the nature of convivencia, the much-vaunted “living-together-ness” of Jews, Christians, and Muslims that is sometimes viewed as a unique force for cultural productivity and other times as a fanciful myth meant to cover up centuries of religious tension and violence. I am amongst the scholars who are moving past the simple celebration or slamming of convivencia and are instead seeking to understand and explain the cultural mechanisms by which Spain’s Jews, Christians, and Muslims did exactly and simply what the term claims: live and flourish culturally in the same space, striking a balance between collaboration and parallel play. My contribution to this next step forward is to explore reading and translation as a site of cultural and linguistic self-definition. In other words, I ask how and why medieval Spaniards read and wrote, how they responded to the readers and writers who were their neighbors, and how their language choices served their cultural needs, all regardless of their faith tradition. My work is grounded in Tel Aviv Poststructuralism (or polysystem theory), the idea that certain types of literature are best understood as a complex but unified system comprising overlapping component parts that allows its readers and writers multiple cultural and linguistic options and possibilities that they negotiate according to their literary needs and preferences; but my work has also continued to grow and benefit from my introduction of ancillary theories and methodologies that borrow from the fields of anthropology and art history/material culture that have allowed me to situate my literary analysis even more firmly in its cultural-historical and material-historical contexts.

 

(Updated June, 2016)

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