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Covert Gestures: Crypto-Islamic Literature as Cultural Practice in Early Modern Spain

Vincent Barletta
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Covert Gestures
    Book Description:

    Covert Gestures reveals how the traditional Islamic narratives of the moriscos both shaped and encoded a wide range of covert social activity characterized by a profound and persistent concern with time and temporality. Using a unique blend of literary analysis, linguistic anthropology, and phenomenological philosophy, Vincent Barletta explores the narratives as testimonials of past human experiences and discovers in them evidence of community resistance.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9672-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction: The Fabric of Time
    (pp. ix-xxxvi)

    The Castilian Muslims who accepted Christian baptism in 1502 in exchange for the right to remain in the Iberian peninsula could not have known that a century later their grandchildren would be expelled from Spain. In Aragon these Christian conversions happened twenty-three years later, though even then there would have been little reason to suspect that a Spanish king would ever order the expulsion of several hundred thousand Christian converts. That Felipe III ordered this expulsion in 1609 stands as one of the larger errors of Spanish domestic policy during the early modern period and, from the perspective of those...

  4. 1 Toward an Activity-Centered Approach to Aljamiado-Morisco Narrative
    (pp. 1-30)

    Literary critic Frank Kermode has argued, in an essay dealing with the relation between time and narrative, that “it is not expected of critics as it is of poets that they should help us to make sense of our lives; they are bound only to attempt the lesser feat of making sense of the ways we try to make sense of our lives” (2000, 3). The present book, a work of literary criticism, investigates the ways in which members of Morisco communities in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Castile and Aragon made use of handwritten traditional narratives to make sense of...

  5. 2 Written Narrative and the Human Dimension of Time
    (pp. 31-55)

    This chapter will map out in some detail the activity-centered approach to traditionalaljamiado-morisconarratives from Castile and Aragon. This approach, based on the analysis of manuscript texts and what is known about the cultural world of Castilian and Aragonese crypto-Muslims, seeks to address the ways in which members of these communities used handwritten narrative texts in their efforts to make sense of their complex and precarious existence in Spain. In order to present the details of this approach, both from a theoretical and methodological perspective, I will be drawing connections between phenomenological philosophy, ethnographic research on oral narrative, and...

  6. 3 Contexts of Rediscovery, Contexts of Use
    (pp. 56-78)

    “A true America waiting to be discovered.”¹ These are the words that Serafín Estébanez Calderón (1799–1867), a prominent nineteenth-century writer, political figure, book collector, and committed Arabist, uses in his address at the Ateneo de Madrid on November 12, 1848, to characterize the potential value of thealjamiado-moriscotexts that had been turning up in private collections and in areas of rural Spain once inhabited by communities of crypto-Muslims.² Speaking at the ceremony inaugurating Pascual de Gayangos’s chair in Arabic at the Ateneo, Estébanez was likely unaware of the ominous associations that his America metaphor might engender, even prior...

  7. 4 The Prophet Is Born, Muslims Are Made
    (pp. 79-103)

    In the previous chapters, I have mapped out a basic theoretical framework for an activity-centered approach toaljamiado-moriscoliterature. Beginning with a discussion of the inherent interdisciplinarity of this mode of literary analysis, I concluded by defining what it means to place Morisco scribes and readers, as human agents, at the center of textual study. Rooted in what Gary Saul Morson has termed the “human dimension of time” (1994, 10), the activity-centered approach I am suggesting focuses on the uses to which Morisco readers and scribes putaljamiadotexts within their social world and the ways in which culturally embedded...

  8. 5 A Morisco Philosophy of Suffering and Action
    (pp. 104-132)

    One of the first things that catches modern readers’ attention when looking ataljamiado-morisconarratives in their manuscript context is that these narratives are frequently part of a large collection of texts bound within the same codex. Analogous in a very general way to modern literary anthologies or course readers used by university professors, the overwhelming majority ofaljamiado-moriscomanuscripts in fact contain a number of texts, many of which are not, strictly speaking, narrative in form. An example of such an anthology is Toledo, BCLM ms. 395, analjamiado-moriscomanuscript copied out near the end of the sixteenth century,...

  9. 6 Language Ideologies and Poetic Form
    (pp. 133-155)

    One of the most perplexing questions inaljamiado-moriscostudies is also one of the most fundamental: why did Moriscos produce texts inaljamiadoin the first place? Given the risks inherent in such an enterprise, it is easy to see the use of Arabic script for the production of narrative and devotional works as a practice that could backfire spectacularly, given the energetic practices of the Inquisition in Castile and Aragon. As an example of the dangers inherent in the production and possession of such texts, we may glance briefly at the case of Luis de Córdoba, a jeweler from...

  10. Conclusions
    (pp. 156-160)

    When we studyaljamiado-moriscoliterature from the perspective of the human agents that engaged it, temporal frameworks, such as specific times in the Islamic calendar or hours of the day and the devotional practices that correspond to them, can take center stage. This feature is of course not limited toaljamiado-moriscoliterature; however, it is such a salient feature of the handwritten texts of the Moriscos of Castile and Aragon that I have chosen to focus upon it throughout the present book.

    Turning briefly to more general questions involving textuality and time, we may present some of the specific questions...

  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 161-162)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 163-177)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 178-196)
  14. Index
    (pp. 197-202)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 203-203)