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A Sea of Languages

A Sea of Languages: Rethinking the Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 328
  • Book Info
    A Sea of Languages
    Book Description:

    Reframing ongoing debates within literary studies in dynamic new ways,A Sea of Languageswill become a critical resource and reference point for a new generation of scholars and students on the intersection of Arabic and European literature.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6339-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. In Memoriam
    (pp. ix-x)
    Karla Mallette
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Introduction: The Persistence of Philology: Language and Connectivity in the Mediterranean
    (pp. 3-22)

    The Mediterranean is an inland sea, but the term can also be used in a broader sense: to describe the geographical region that includes the sea, its islands, and the surrounding lands; to describe the cultural environment thought to be typical of this part of the world, even – as in the quotation from Pound above – a characteristic way of thinking and feeling, one determined by the nature of the region itself. While the form of national history has long been dominant, the attractions of conceiving of Mediterranean history synthetically, as a complex whole made up of many parts, have only...

  6. Part One: Philology in the Mediterranean

    • 2 Beyond Philology: Cross-Cultural Engagement in Literary History and Beyond
      (pp. 25-42)

      One of the things I most appreciate in the work of María Rosa Menocal is her insistence on the specificity of the Middle Ages. This is most in evidence in her lovely elegiac essay “Horse Latitudes” inShards of Love, in which she evocatively conjures the “messy, cacophonous” (43) world of “riotous pluralities and often-chaotic poetics” (10) foreclosed in 1492. In that vision, the pre-modern stood for the overlapping complexities of a multilingual and multiconfessional Spain not yet straitjacketed by the rectilinear Humanist rationality Walter Mignolo calls the “Darker Side of the Renaissance.” A look back atThe Arabic Role...

    • 3 Linguistic Difference, the Philology of Romance, and the Romance of Philology
      (pp. 43-61)

      Scholarship on romance, like so much scholarship on medieval literature, has been deeply entrenched in modern narratives of the emergence of national literary histories. Widely regarded as an index of French courtly sophistication that other cultures could import, by translation or adaptation, in order to emulate French models, romance has traditionally been used by literary historians – whether consciously or unconsciously – to demonstrate the centrality and primacy of French literature and culture to European vernacular literary culture more generally.¹ The translation or adaptation of French literature undoubtedly was central to the emergence of medieval vernacular literary cultures in English, German, Spanish...

    • 4 Forging New Paradigms: Towards a History of Islamo-Christian Civilization
      (pp. 62-70)

      María Rosa Menocal uses this citation from Pico della Mirandola as the epigraph to the first chapter of herArabic Role in Medieval Literary History, on “the myth of Westernness in Medieval Literary History.” This “myth,” which excludes medieval Arabs from “our” common cultural heritage (but includes the Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Germans – and sometimes Hebrews), is first constructed by Italian Humanists in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and other Europeans and Americans through the centuries have added to this ideological edifice, from Petrarch to Chateaubriand and Disraeli – and, one could now add, to Samuel Huntington, for whom two massive...

    • 5 Reflections on Muslim Hebraism: Codex Vindobonensis Palatinus and al-Biqa‘i
      (pp. 71-81)

      This article is an attempt to reflect on the position of the Bible in the Islamic religious imagination. It builds on the insights gained from my study of al-Biqa‘i’s encounter with the Bible, but focuses primarily on the woefully forgotten Codex Vindobonensis (Vienna MS. A.F. 58). I will argue that the main characteristic of the treatment of the Bible within Islamic religious scholarship was ambiguity, and that it was a creative ambiguity. In the process, I will have occasion to raise several concerns about the academic study of Islam, our work as scholars, and our relationship with past scholarship. The...

    • 6 “Mixing the East with the West”: Cosmopolitan Philology in Richard Burton’s Translations from Camões
      (pp. 82-99)

      “The original device of mixing the East with the West,” ventures Richard Burton in his commentary on Camões, lendsThe Lusiads“a new and peculiar position” within the European epic. Perhaps the winter the Renaissance Portuguese poet spent on Hormuz Island, Burton speculates, afforded Camões “the glance of genius at Persian literature” and gave hisLusiads“a gorgeousness of tint unknown to the severer Epic schools.” For Burton, Camões’s sojourn on the Persian Gulf Island could help explain the epic’s at-times “uniquely un-European style” and the “charm” and “perfect sweetness” of “that reflection of Eastern literature upon Western thought” (R....

    • 7 Reading Backward: The 1001 Nights and Philological Practice
      (pp. 100-116)

      Nothing could be more philologically correct than to begin a discussion of philology with a survey of the changing semantic range of the word. The practice of philology, of course, has a long and checkered history, and one could gather a bouquet of definitions of the word, from Seneca’s famous denunciation of philology as cheapened philosophy (quae philosophia fuit facta philologia est) to Giulio Bertoni’s fascist-era declaration that “the object of philology is a reality to be conquered” (13). I won’t go all the way back to the origins of the word – to the Greeks, for whomphilologiameant both...

  7. Part Two: The Cosmopolitan Frontier:: Andalusi Case Studies

    • 8 Andalusi “Exceptionalism”
      (pp. 119-134)

      Al-Andalus (conventionally called “Muslim Spain” or “Islamic Spain”) is now commonly identified and celebrated as the site of an extraordinary, extended moment of complex social interaction and cultural ferment, creativity and transfer among Iberian Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Yet modern scholars such as Américo Castro and María Rosa Menocal, to name only two of the most prominent proponents of this particular approach, were not the first to cast al-Andalus in an uncommonly positive light. Philip Hitti, arguably speaking as a committed Arab nationalist, paints a mesmerizing picture of tenth-century Muslim Cordoba inA History of the Arabs. Reading Hitti, one...

    • 9 The Convivencia Wars: Decoding Historiography’s Polemic with Philology
      (pp. 135-161)

      The quincentenary remembrance of Columbus’s first voyage, of the expulsion of Iberian Jews, and of the conquest of Muslim Granada produced a barrage of texts meditating on the nature of medieval Iberian multiculturalism, specifically as it might reflect theconvivencia(coexistence or cohabitation) of disparate groups. The concept of convivencia, while falling from favour among many academics, has (in historian Jonathan Ray’s words) “been embraced and distorted by an ever-widening group of academics, journalists, and politicians” (1).¹ Despite the spread of this popularity and the persistently positive spin that the concept has come to acquire in current usage, not everyone...

    • 10 “In One of My Body’s Gardens”: Hearts in Transformation in Late Medieval Iberian Passion Devotions
      (pp. 162-181)

      InShards of Love: Exile and the Origins of the Lyric(73–90), María Rosa Menocal explores an often-cited lyric by the late twelfth-century Andalusi poet, Muhyi al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi, the most influential Sufi mystic produced by Iberian Islam. The lines on which she focuses her attention will be familiar to many readers: “My heart can take on any form; a meadow for gazelles, a cloister for monks …” The poet goes on to transform his heart into sacred ground for idols, a “Ka‘ba for the circling pilgrim, the tables of a Torah, the scrolls of a Qur’an.” Placing Ibn...

    • 11 Arab Musical Influence on Medieval Europe: A Reassessment
      (pp. 182-198)

      María Rosa Menocal’sThe Arabic Role in Medieval Literary Historyposed a provocative central question: Why had Romance Philology refused to explore the possibilities of Arabic influence on European medieval literature despite abundant historical evidence that contact with Arabic literature, written and oral, had taken place in many different times, places, and manners throughout the Middle Ages? The critical issue was not then, nor is it now, whether any one specific genre, style, or theme was shaped, wholly or partially, by Arab influences, but rather why potential links to Arab culture were not being actively explored by western scholars. The...

    • 12 Sicilian Poets in Seville: Literary Affinities across Political Boundaries
      (pp. 199-216)

      In the winter of 1184, a severely damaged ship returning from Mecca floated miraculously to safety to the port city of Messina on the northeast coast of Sicily. On board was Ibn Jubayr, traveller-scholar and poet from the city of granada, who survived the ordeal and lived to tell about it. His account of the storm at sea, the ship’s wreckage, pilgrims bellowing in fear, and the anticipated anxiety of entering an unknown foreign country ruled by an enemy people would end on a positive note with the appearance of King William II, who personally came to the shore and...

    • 13 Vidal Benvenist’s Efer ve-Dinah between Hebrew and Romance
      (pp. 217-231)

      In an article in the 2004Cambridge History of Spanish Literaturetitled “Beginnings,” María Rosa Menocal writes that “the Jews are as much (or as little) Spaniards as anyone else inside this volume – from Seneca to Alfonso el Sabio … This reflects the reality in the historical moment in which their culture flourished in Spain; their literature is in Hebrew, but that too is part of a Spanish tradition defined now as being multifaceted and encompassing languages that would later be rejected and exiled” (70– 1). The fact that this idea – that Spanish Jews were, indeed, Spanish – needs to be...

    • 14 The Shadow of Islam in Cervantes’s “El Licenciado Vidriera”
      (pp. 232-241)

      Ideally, the reader of these lines will have read the novella by Miguel de Cervantes titled “El Licenciado Vidriera” (“The Glass Graduate”). For the benefit of those who have not, a brief plot summary follows:

      While travelling, two upper-class students find a young boy sleeping by the banks of the river Tormes. They inquire as to his origin and the reason for his solitude, to which he responds that he does not remember the name of his birth place, but that he wishes to go to Salamanca to find a good master and to study. Moved by his responses, the...

    • 15 “The Finest Flowering”: Poetry, History, and Medieval Spain in the Twenty-First Century
      (pp. 242-253)

      One of the last things written by Edward Said before his death in December 2002 was a bittersweet article on Spain for a popular travel magazine,Travel and Leisure. “For me, and indeed for many Arabs,” he writes near the beginning, “Andalusia [sic] still represents the finest flowering of our culture. That is particularly true now, when the Arab Middle East seems mired in defeat and violence, its societies unable to arrest their declining fortunes, its secular culture so full of almost surreal crisis, shock and nihilism” (Said, “Andalusia’s Journey” 181).¹ The whole of Said’s article veers back and forth...

    • 16 Boustrophedon: Towards a Literary Theory of the Mediterranean
      (pp. 254-266)

      Literary historians have arrived late to the Mediterranean, a fact which the observer of modern intellectual history might find baffling. Economic historians, social historians and anthropologists – with all their concern for the verifiable and the falsifiable and the quantifiable – have their Mediterranean. They debate the valence of the term and its transhistorical validity; but the Mediterranean exists in their disciplines as a regional lens and a disciplinary modifier. And classicists use the rubric “Mediterranean” to refer to the Semitic, Greek, and Latin cultures, including the literatures, of the region.¹ The sea would seem to be a natural field of play...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-306)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 307-310)