Under the Influence: Questioning the Comparative in Medieval Castile

Under the Influence: Questioning the Comparative in Medieval Castile

Under the Influence: Questioning the Comparative in Medieval Castile

Under the Influence: Questioning the Comparative in Medieval Castile


This volume of essays considers specific examples of literature and art in medieval Castile, problematizing the idea of comparative methodology when studying the cultural production of a place with such an intensely multi-linguistic and multi-religious profile. Contributions have been solicited from an equal number of specialists in the art and literature of the medieval Iberian peninsula, with each essay highlighting the ways in which stable categories of genre or style are ultimately inadequate to a full and nuanced reading of cultural products which in some sense belong to, or address, more that one of medieval Iberias classic three, Jewish, Muslim and Christian cultural entities.Contributors: Ana Echevarria ; Heather Ecker ; Maréa Judith Feliciano; Luis M. Girón-Negrón ; Gregory S. Hutcheson; Gregory B. Kaplan ; Benjamin Liu ; Francisco Prado-Vilar ; Cynthia Robinson ; Leyla Rouhi ; Louise O. Vasvári.


Cynthia Robinson and Leyla Rouhi

This collection of essays originated with a group of papers presented at the annual meeting of the College Art Association in Chicago in March, 2001, at a session which bore the same title as the present volume: Under the Influence. Shortly thereafter, a serendipitous email from Cynthia Robinson to Leyla Rouhi on the topic of the gobetween in medieval Iberia inspired a series of dialogues which rapidly led to the idea of an interdisciplinary volume that would question comparative methodologies currently used in studies of Medieval Spain. A neologism that came out of those initial discussions was the coinage of the term prooftruths, in response to the insistence, often presented by scholars of European history and literature, on the necessity for “proof” of lasting interaction (and the deep-reaching cultural consequences thereof) between Latinate and Semitic components in the context of medieval Spain. Prooftruths, we decided, meant, for such scholars, the word, the line, the motif, the monument, the exemplum, which was passed as-was (and left that way for easy future identification) across perceived cultural lines and which remains intact as testimony to such exchange. Only then, it seemed, would the results of these crossings be allowed to inscribe themselves into the canon. Furthermore, it appeared as though a comparative enterprise only gained legitimacy if it produced, at the end of its inquiry, such pieces of evidence. This collection represents an attempt to interrogate and counter such a linear quest for palpable, cataloguable signs of influence, which are mainstream scholarship’s prooftruths. Our prooftruths, while often made visible by the meticulous readings of our contributors, are simultaneously and also found in the erased not-there.

As it so happened, certain key initial phases of the conception of

By ‘Semitic’ and ‘Latinate’ we refer specifically to the perceived divisions between Jews and Muslims on the one hand, and Christians on the other hand in Medieval Iberia.

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