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as i edge toward a complete definition of medieval iberia, with its constellation of Muslim and Christian realms and Jewish communities from approximately 500 to 1500 CE, i strive for precise word use, for unity and accuracy, but i am always on the perimeter of iberia’s fullness. i am always at its edge trying to capture it all by researching Castilian kingdoms here and Muslim realms there, or Jewish poets in this instance and aragonese physicians in that one. iberia is more than mere geography. Just when i am certain that i have arrived at an airtight definition of the place, its inhabitants, and its cultural production, another contingency emerges to throw my neat design into a state of doubt and disorder. iberia always eludes me. is my area of study fully “medieval iberia?” do i always consider Portugal after its twelfth-century split from Castile? when dealing with medieval iberia, how can i separate north africa from al-andalus, the name the Muslims gave their iberian territory? and if i cannot divide them, should my area of study be iberia and north africa? Can “iberia” contain north africa in its meaning? and where does medieval iberia fall, in “Christian Europe” (yes), or toward “the Muslim east” (yes), which was not truly “toward the east” at all? How to contain all that diversity in one obligatory word, in one comprehensive toponym? i wonder if trying to find the perfect name for the diversity of the iberian Middle ages is an important or worthy undertaking. Many colleagues are content to use limited terms such as “medieval Spain” or “Hispania,” but i am not. a growing number of scholars, such as María rosa Menocal [“Visions of al-andalus” 12] and anthony Pym [14–15], have recently discussed this difficulty in nomenclature, yet i cannot help but think that this is our own modern preoccupation: medieval people surely did not conceive of medieval iberia in this way. we invented the Middle ages. Modern scholars especially from the nineteenth century on determined and maintained, however loosely, chronological breaks between what we call antiquity and the Middle ages, and between the medieval and early modern periods.1 in addition, scholars often erroneously applied modern values to the past, as demonstrated in studies by, for instance, norman F. Cantor, John dagenais, Umberto Eco, Mark d. Meyerson, and gabrielle M. Spiegel. These investigations point out many modern presumptions about the medieval period, such as about ethnicity, hierarchies of powerful and marginalized groups, gender relations, nationhood, or authorship and book production in medieval manuscript culture. and while the most useful scholarship avoids the unthinking application of modern concepts to the medieval period, it is evident that scholars are always confined by their own limits and values, even if they wish to describe the past with accuracy. it is like walking a tightrope between the medieval period and the present; it is like being on iberia’s edge, trying to have that broad scope from the twenty-first century to contain it all. but the tightrope, the edge is
1. r. Howard Bloch and Stephen g. nichols discuss the nineteenth-century rise of medieval studies in France and germany, in Medievalism and the Modernist Temper. Catherine Brown analyzes ramón Menéndez Pidal’s role in the invention of the Middle ages in nineteenth-century Spain, in “The relics of Menéndez Pidal: Mourning and Melancholia in Hispanomedieval Studies.” Teofilo ruiz claims that we are captives of periodization and of an artificial division between the late medieval and early modern periods, in Spanish Society, 1400–1600 [1–2].
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. . of occult philosophy” [69. the actions that result from the movement of mobile elements in a place. whatever i call my object of study will to some degree determine my approach and ultimately my findings. the task is difficult if not impossible.” it designates activity within an ordered place. For a recent discussion of periodization and the use of the phrase “the Middle ages. al-andalus. “space is a practiced place. for instance. and scholarship. due to my broad historical scope in the twenty-first century. political and social manifestations during the approximate one-thousand-year period. place is the stable ordering of units side by side. Medieval people represented neither iberia nor the Middle ages in this way. How do we characterize or study the medieval period in a way that demonstrates medieval issues and values rather than modern ones. Yet even the recognition of the medieval period as a modern invention does not change the practical value of terms such as “medieval” or “the Middle ages. including “the Middle ages as a barbaric age” and “the Middle ages . both the stable ordering of elements. ordered place and a dynamic space.” which are maintained by scholars and the public alike. social.2 Eco suggests that to some degree we always recast the Middle ages in our contemporary image.” see chapter 2. while space “is composed of intersections of mobile elements”: “a space exists when one takes into consideration vectors of direction. but being in it at the same time.’” in Marcus Bull’s Thinking Medieval. 71]. and it allows for chronological change . the name that i choose will not have a static definition. toward it. resolute entity. as Eco would say. Cordova. change. the border between Portugal and Spain. Castile. i want it to signify at different times all the social and political manifestations on the medieval peninsula. such as the Mediterranean. as well as the political. my quest for a complete name cannot always reflect how medieval people described their world. nor to the medieval period as an intrinsic. or twenty kilometers apart. and the Middle East. north africa. movies. velocities. and time variables” . it is a border without limits. which manifests in modern novels. in 1150.like quicksand that constantly shifts. since one leads to the other. according to Michel de Certeau. fragmentary. accuracy. i look for a holistic name that will meet medieval diversity. both as a static. one example of how modern constructs continue to inform our understanding of the past is the artificial periodization of the era into roughly ten centuries. the Mediterranean. This search is. moving around it.” in other words. i want my term unbound by fleeting historical names or groups of people. a dream: any term will bear limitations or predetermined value. and the dynamic interactions between people in the medieval period. “What are the ‘Middle ages?. that will reflect diverse communities and nongeographical expectations of space? Medieval iberia was so much more than a set of boundaries: the atlantic. or maybe control. it is clear that some medieval people were concerned with wholeness. i want my term to signify both a place and a space. He calls attention to the constructed quality of the medieval period by delineating ten types of “Middle ages” made popular nowadays through media and scholarship. that is. Can i find a term that will include and expand both socially and geographically. but my term can signify in multiple ways. and finally to Jewish communities. it will not merely refer to the physical. diacritics / fall–winter 2006 13 . The distinction between place and space permits variation. that will subsume and gather in all the varying. such as on a map. dubbed himself the ruler of the three 2. the Pyrenees. and burgos. knowing at the same time that we always mark our efforts with our own era? This dilemma parallels the difficulty in searching for an accurate name for the iberian Middle ages. alfonso Vii. from Muslim-dominated al-andalus to shifting Hispanic kingdoms and crowns. the king of Castile. and economic networks that constituted the iberian Middle ages throughout the Mediterranean. and diverse meanings for my selected term. geographical iberian peninsula. Edging toward iberia is being outside iberia.
and a pronounced circle containing Sijilmasa “and the land of the blacks (bil¯ d al-S¯ d¯ n)” a u a is located in north africa [Harley and woodward 119]. 4. they largely shaped it according to their objectives and motivation within their specific historical period. Tibbetts. one from cartography and two from narrative history.religions Christianity. although such a contrast might be obvious to modern readers. Safran has demonstrated that these works. says that north africa “includes Spain” on al-Istakhr¯’s map.” instead of following the Ptolemaic method of dividing the world into regions or climes [bloom 148–49]. gerald r. while smaller towns. radiate from the Cordovan center with north african towns drawn in the same way as circles. although examples of medieval people’s portrayals could be described virtually ad infinitum. where K the cartographer depicts al-andalus and north africa together as a series of circles. This fifteenth-century copy is reproduced in Turner [Science 125]. 951). K and plate 7].4 al-istakhr¯’s map conK siders the peninsula and north africa in tandem as one spatial area organized according to the importance of their cities and towns. the shape of al-andalus hinges on its association with north africa and on Cordova’s centrality. and the anonymous a tenth-century akhbar majmu‘a fi fath al-andalus (Collected reports on the Conquest of al-andalus). They also rendered places as geometric shapes [Harley and woodward 115]. 119]. 125. on the andalusi side. as are cities along the north african coast. describe al-andalus in contrasting ways because of differing historical circumstances. ‘abd al-Malik ibn Habib’s ninth-century universal history. Kit¯ b al-Ta’rK¯j (la historia). the dispar3. and islam. when medieval people specifically described iberia. it is evident that al-istakhr¯’s map does not coincide K with modern notions of physical geography. a group of mapmakers named for K K the cartographer al-balkh¯. other maps related to al-Istakhr¯ are found in Harley and Woodward [120–21. 14 . They tended to depict large areas that “corresponded to contemporary political entities (mamalik). as in a fifteenth-century copy of al-istakhr¯’s tenth-century map.5 The impact of places within the entire realm apparently depends on their relation to Cordova. with a series of less significant places arranged around it. but are connected to Cordova as smaller and therefore less important circles. north african coastal sites are not separated ideologically by the Straits of gibraltar. also rendered as circles. at least one other mapmaker in the Balkh¯ school. abu ishaq al-istakhr¯ (fl. suggesting his desire to encompass the varied peoples of his realms [Pym 15]. 5. since the andalusi Caliphate was as much a governmental hub as a religious center.3 The circle sizes of the towns around Cordova are smaller in dimension and importance because of their distance from Cordova. i will discuss three examples to illustrate this point. The Straits of gibraltar come between al-andalus and north africa. al-Muqaddas¯. which illustrate the varying contingencies that prompted medieval people to describe their world. and in Harley and Woodward [plate 6]. instead. since many of the authors were travelers who had firsthand knowledge of the routes of the islamic world. the circle sizes and the distance between them illustrate Cordova’s political and perhaps spiritual dominance. alistakhr¯ followed the tradition of the balkh¯ school. Little is known about the Persian cartographer. whose K tenth-century map of al-andalus and north africa constitutes my first example. al-Istakhr¯ was not alone in indicating the importance of cities and towns by different cirK cle sizes. the author of the chapter on the Balkh¯ school in The History of CartogK raphy. in the middle of spherical al-andalus lies another circle denoting the andalusi cultural and political center of Cordova. suggesting that the mapmaker K considered the two areas together as one [Harley and Woodward 114. a second example is a comparison of two andalusi histories of the Muslim conquest. Judaism. but. Mapmakers in the balkh¯ tradition usually K K aimed to illustrate the routes of caravan and sea travel within islam. Janina M. who died in 934. did the same [Bloom K K 148]. the andalusi seat of power.
a faraway place for continued Muslim settlement. provides an imagined map of islamic al-andalus that may or may not have corresponded to its actual configuration at any time” . The manner of their capitulation determined how they were treated with regard to property issues and taxation . Even if it existed in fledgling form. although they also used the term al-andalus to refer to the entire peninsula. arab historians sometimes called Christian iberia Ishbaniya. ibn Habib portrayed al-andalus as forbidding and isolated a from the centers of islamic civilization. Some historians have tried to cast historical figures such as alfonso as part of the “reconquest. and thirdly. the author recognizes the threat of Pelayo and his party of thirty men and ten women in the northern stronghold of Covadonga. medieval iberians described their world according to the political and historical circumstances of their time. while the author of akhbar majmu’a demonstrates its significance within Umayyad rule. and by the fact that in the ninth century al-andalus was a work in progress. “Visions” 12]. al-andalus has different meanings and value for these two writers according to the goals of their historical prose. the akhbar majmu’a recounts the history of al-andalus from the Muslim conquest to the author’s present day in the tenth century. as well as by the sometimes unavoidable limits of periodization. and thus emphasized its location on the edge of familiar islamic society [137–41]. the tenthcentury “conquest history . The author also “inscribes al-andalus with a new history” through the cataloguing of andalusi place names in arabic . The anonymous author devotes a section of the text to Muslim dynastic history in an effort to identify “the conquest as the platform for Umayyad rule” .ity between these accounts illustrates three interrelated claims whose connection is not transparent. just as medieval people imputed value to iberia depending on their political or historical goals. Medieval people did not have this perspective. alfonso does not view espanna as a nation in the modern sense. whose team of writers and scribes aimed to situate espanna in the historical trajectory of previous rulers and empires. Second. The writer further describes al-andalus according to how cities and territories were conquered. espanna denotes the entire peninsula for alfonso in the thirteenth century. Thus. “Visions” 12]. that is. in the same way that the andalusi writers discussed above did not consider al-andalus a delimited nation-state. even though during the early years of Christian expansion the name designated for Christians the Muslim territory of al-andalus. whether Christian inhabitants fought back or surrendered. in the Kit¯ b al-Ta’rK¯j. The idea of national identity during alfonso’s sovereignty is highly doubtful. namely those of Hercules and Julius Caesar. and ultimately may inform their analysis of the period. in the discussion of the conquest. despite his evident imperial goals. or only to Muslim territory [Menocal.” the effort to regain the peninsula from what these 6. ibn Habib emphasizes in part its isolation from islamic civilization. the name that scholars select today for medieval iberia will ascribe a certain worth to the space. Menocal. searching for an accurate.6 Hence. with its northern limit in narbonne. as it does in alfonso’s historiography [Penny 30. ibn Habib’s descriptions were motivated in part by the social and political turmoil of his time. . and third. although the writer lays claim to the entire peninsula for the Muslims. Funes 9–10]. in contrast. diacritics / fall–winter 2006 15 . and thus legitimize alfonso’s own royal ambitions [Prosa histórica 49–51. it only later came to refer to the peninsula as a whole. . anthony Pym notes that it “disintegrated into a series of internal struggles during and following alfonso’s reign” . See pages 38–39 of the Spanish translation of akhbar majmu’a for the narration of this episode and the territorial claim. First. . in contrast. inclusive term for the iberian Middle ages is prompted by our modern perspective toward the past. i turn to the renowned thirteenth-century historical prose of alfonso X (1253–84).
the writer’s intent is to show that Christians and Muslims are enemies because of their divergent origins [rUB. indeed. and Muslim intellectuals of his time in all of western Europe (“con la colaboración del círculo intelectual más numeroso y erudito de su época en el occidente europeo. in allowing the Muslims access to the peninsula. Jewish. Scholars such as garcía gómez view the reconquest as an effort by unified Hispanic kingdoms against the supposed Muslim infidel. Leonardo Funes believes that alfonso’s political goals mainly consisted of administrative and political centralization . which include narration about the weakness of the last Visigothic king. part I. “Visions” 12]. although the scribe claims that Christians do not err in capturing and enslaving Muslims. since she believes that from the eleventh century on. this desire did not translate into a marauding. and they granted iberia contrasting value depending on their aims. since it could refer both to the entire peninsula and to the area under Muslim rule [Menocal. Donde uino la p<r>i`ncipal enemistad d<e>los fijos de Japhet & d<e>los de Ca<m>]. but that european hegemony was achieved by the sixteenth century [11–12. For examples of alfonso’s descriptions of Muslims in his historiography. The scribe’s recounting of the biblical story may be. 21v]. large-scale political and cultural project. where alfonso’s scribe narrates the biblical story about Christian and Muslim difference. book II. crusading military enterprise against islam. since alfonso sought to carry out his objectives in collaboration with what Funes calls the largest and most erudite group of Christian. while the Castilian king included stories about Muslims in his works. chapter 29 [The Electronic Texts and Concordance of the Prose works of alfonso X. 8. For a contrasting view. also.8 although alfonso wished to elevate Castile’s renown within the peninsula and throughout Europe [Funes 9]. his remarks did not necessarily constitute a personal enmity toward them. These three examples illustrate the variety of ways that medieval people portrayed iberia according to their motives and goals during specific eras. the historian Manuela Marín posits the idea of a fluctuating meaning for al-andalus. “the andalusi reality” was always geographically vari7. In this case. however. ibn Habib and the author of the akhbar majmu’a called it al-andalus. judíos y musulmanes” ). writers and cartographers used variable terms. This reconquest ideology is epitomized by beliefs such as that of the critic Emilio garcía gomez that almost eight hundred years of Muslim rule constituted an accident of history that was finally rectified in 1492 with granada’s capitulation to the Catholic monarchs Fernando and isabel [Marín 17–18]. and Muslims from Cham.7 alfonso X’s association with the reconquest ideology of garcía gómez and others is extremely questionable. which was at times polyvalent.scholars consider the illegitimate occupancy of the Muslims. nor an incontestable wish to participate in the international initiative to decrease Muslim power. as the initial rubric indicates. the mapmaker al-istakhr¯ probably understood alK andalus and north africa in tandem. Janet abu-lughod argues that europe arrived late to the international network of trade and exchange established by the Muslims. 15–16]. alfonso points to the inadequacies of the Visigothic ruler instead of expressing antagonism or hatred toward the Muslims. ge1. 16 . integrado por cristianos. in which Christians derived from Japhet. Pope Clement iV was concerned about “the reluctance of Christian kings [in iberia] to eliminate” non-Christians from their midst [Linehan 39]. see chapters 554 through 559 of the Estoria de Espanna [Prosa histórica 89–100]. at least in part. while recent studies cast it more accurately as part of a global medieval European effort to weaken Muslim economic and political hegemony [Pym 140–41]. rather than as separate regions. see the general Estoria. but Funes also recognizes that this goal represented a novel. on the contrary—during alfonso’s reign in 1265. the extent to which alfonso converted this disparaging sentiment into a fervent military or political campaign against thirteenth-century andalusis is yet to be confirmed. This continued tolerance of Muslims is exemplified by alfonso’s dealings with granada’s nasrid king as one of his vassals . who resided there from 711 until the dissolution of their last kingdom in granada in 1492. formulaic. rodrigo. fol.
alfonso rendered espanna central to his imperial goals. although his concept of empire was less intent on eradicating Muslim people and culture than on accommodating them in his imperial framework. espanna for alfonso X was not limited only to Christian realms. diacritics / fall–winter 2006 17 . including Marín and Menocal. ibn Habib. art and cultural exhibits. These scholars theorized about the role of the Visigoths. aznar based his logic on the myth of the reconquest and on the misguided idea that north africans left iberia in 1492. iberia and north africa have always had mutual relations. and rising interest among Spaniards and others today in al-andalus and the medieval period demonstrate a desire on the part of the general public to understand medieval iberia more fully. and Pym 14–15. and in the thirteenth century. which dominated medieval iberian studies for several decades in the middle of the twentieth century. Many medievalists today have moved beyond the limited terms of the renowned debate between the scholars américo Castro and Claudio Sánchez albornoz about the role of Muslim culture in contemporary Spain. romans. that Spain’s problems with al-Qaeda originated in the eighth century with the Muslim (aznar called them “Moors”) invasion [see aznar]. in addition to a selection of names for iberia. a popular idea that contributes to the stigmatizing of current north african immigrants to Spain as “invaders” who were expelled centuries ago. This variation is evident even before the eleventh century in the different ways that al-istakhr¯. 23n18. Sánchez albornoz believed that modern Spaniards traced their origins to the Visigoths. es un concepto geográficamente variable y sometido a una disminución constante desde el siglo Xi en adelante” ). even though Spain is a modern nation that did not exist before the sixteenth century or later. websites on. Their contest was an effort to explain modern Spanish national identity and does not serve as the basis for any verifiable determination of the Christian-Muslim relationship in iberia.able and consistent with decreasing territorial power (“La realidad andalusí. He suggested that just as Christians finally dominated Muslims in 1492. Yet. ibn Habib cast al-andalus as dangerous because of its positioning in the hinterlands. aznar posited the latter’s existence in the eighth century. in order to make his anachronistic parallel between eighth-century iberia and modern Spain. awareness of the medieval period’s significance in Spain is evident in numerous university conferences. por tanto. as expressed in a speech at georgetown University in 2004. for instance. in fact. and the author of the akhbar majmu’a K envisioned al-andalus. al-istakhr¯ depicted it as a space composed of alternating circle K sizes to show the relations of political and cultural power among cities and towns. i have at my disposal a number of investigative approaches from which to choose. and a gamut of popular historical novels on medieval topics. Sánchez albornoz thus connected Spanish ethnicity to northern European roots. more complex ways since Castro’s and Sánchez albornoz’s debate. so would Christians vanquish al-Qaeda in the present. while Castro tried to show how Muslim culture was integrated into modern Spanish culture and identity. see Marín 17–20. Menocal. at the same time. See Castro and Sánchez albornoz. as well as to iberia’s variable significance and value? i am always edging toward this fullness. How do i handle from my vantage point in the twenty-first century these multiple ways of describing medieval iberia and the numerous realities they represent? How do i denote and describe it in ways that would do justice to this historical diversity. have treated the past in broader. al-andalus or Sefarad (the name that Jews gave iberia). who succeeded the roman rule on the peninsula prior to the north african incursions in the early eighth century. 9. arabic role 19–20n5. intransigent perspectives continue to emerge. but also denoted the peninsula’s Muslim kingdom. such as former Spanish President José María aznar’s belief. and Muslims in modern-day Spanish identity and society. while the writer of the akhbar majmu’a described it favorably as pivotal to Umayyad rule. For recent discussions on this debate.9 Many scholars.
which contains the two sovereign nations. Shifting borders and political configurations throughout the medieval iberian period defy monolithic modern categories of “Spanish” nationhood or national identity.despite aznar’s simplistic connection between the Middle ages and the twenty-first century. which bordered al-andalus. in the same way that aznar’s choice of “Spain” was related to his political objectives. evidence suggests that from 890 until the tenth century. knowledge. i indicated earlier that in my view the terms “medieval Spain” and “Hispania” are woefully lacking. additionally. or identity. and where exactly was the medieval border in the Pyrenees between gaul and iberia? it was never absolute. people related to the court of Enrique iV were well known for their affinity to Muslim culture: 18 . since “Catalonia” was first used in the twelfth century and is thus anachronistic . The complex political and cultural alliances of this region demonstrate that the Pyrenees are deceptive “as any kind of stable line” or territorial border between iberia and gaul. between Spain and France. even if such uniformity was only achieved over the following two to three centuries. the “Spanish” nation-state only began to emerge in the late fifteenth century with the homogenizing efforts of the Catholic Kings (1479–1516). and in the middle. scholars have myriad choices about how to deal with and describe medieval iberia today. in fact. For example. leaving me with the equally limited term “iberia. and the balearic and Canary islands clearly are not part of the mainland. so will scholars’ choice of a name for medieval iberia have consequences for their investigative methodology. andorra truly resides at iberia’s edge. early modern Christian hegemony. it does not include all of modern Spain. The Jewish and Muslim expulsions and conversions from 1492 on constituted an effort toward religious and cultural hegemony by the Castilian-aragonese Crown. but also to the premodern Spain of the Catholic monarchs and the subsequent Hapsburg dynasty. since Melilla and Ceuta are located on the northern coast of africa. rather than the traditionally assumed late medieval. andalusi Muslims occupied a fort at Freinet. but which cannot be separated fully from its modern meaning as the geographic peninsula that contains Spain and Portugal. where does modern “iberia” begin and end? does it include andorra. ruiz 11]. although Christians began to consolidate their power in 1085 with the capture of Toledo. or between Muslims and Christians [Pym 15].” which i want to signify broadly. near Saint-Tropez. indicating serious doubt about the Pyrenees as a demarcation between the “Christian north” and the “Muslim south” [Marc bloch 13–16]. iberia’s limits and very definition often are indeterminate when trying to mold them into modern categories of place. benedict anderson’s idea of the modern nation as an imagined community not only applies to nation-states of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The shortcomings and complexities of this word are apparent nowadays because iberia usually designates the peninsula. which struggled to achieve social and political homogeneity [Casey 1. aznar chose “Spain” to refer to iberia’s medieval past in order to link that era to modern Spanish identity and the nation-state in a similar way as Sánchez albornoz did. and then again in 1212 with their victory at Las navas de Tolosa. northeastern iberia fell to Frankish control from 780 to 801 and is commonly known as the frontier space of the Spanish March. and did not end as is popularly believed with the eighthcentury Muslim defeat in the battle of Tours or Poitiers. which is surrounded by Spain and France in the Pyrenees? not to my knowledge. Furthermore. Paul Freedman remarks that it is difficult to know what to call this area around the Pyrenees from the ninth to eleventh centuries. and does not only refer to Spain. observations by outside visitors to iberia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries demonstrate the commingling of cultural habits. or the marca hispánica. battles and skirmishes between andalusi and Frankish troops continued well into the ninth century.
trade routes. 4. the peninsula bordered by coastal waters and the Pyrenees. 4. which comprise the Levant. that is. These scholars reinforce the diverse referents of iberia and its inhabitants and suggest that the terms rarely denoted categories of modern-style identity and social order regarding nations. “iberians” had multiple meanings. 11.” while at his master’s court both French and Bohemian visitors had encountered the Christian monarch guarded by Moorish warriors from granada (not to mention negroes). 4. or thing. Yet “iberia” is as incomplete as any other term if we use it only to signify a place.29]. the Ebro valley region. but it is also more. lapesa concurs with russell about the origin of the toponym Seville. iberia is better understood as a theoretical concept that designates a space of interaction between different groups of people. For isidore. even Isidore. Instead. he expanded its borders when he claimed that one of its six provinces. or the final Hesperia [chap. For my purposes. place. has not been embraced by colleagues in the US and seems even more inadequate than Iberia.” and seated on the ground with his queen to receive them.10 in his etimologías. The greeks settled parts of the peninsula from the seventh to the third centuries bCE. ethnicities. as isidore of Seville used it in his seventh-century etimologías. and referred to iberia as la última Hesperia. 14. the Constable of Castile had been observed at early mass “all got up as a Moor. and cultural impact extended to north africa and Europe and throughout the Mediterranean. russell posited its origin in an iberian place-name. even a peninsula. The most common term. “iberia” derived from the Ebro river (río ibero) and was the name of the geographic peninsula before its denomination as Hispania [chap. E. rafael Lapesa averred that Hispania predated the roman introduction of Latin and may have derived from Phoenician. and Catalonia. it is the most useful and comprehensive expression i have found. [Linehan 40] what name captures this political and cultural fluidity over so many centuries? However limited. The greeks used “iberians” in an expansive way to refer to all the inhabitants of the peninsula. if Iberia is deemed deficient. the western star that served as their point of navigation in the Mediterranean. 14. but medieval iberia was so much more. the name the greeks gave iberia and italy in relation to Héspero. isidore traced Hispania to Híspalo. Hispalis. because of this polyvalence. in some instances it signifies a bordered land mass. andalusia. clothed and worshipping “in the heathen manner. meaning “land of rabbits” . since its peoples. historians today such as Fernando garcía de Cortázar and José Manuel gonzález Vesga recognize the iberians as a combination of various peoples in diverse regions of the peninsula. group. “iberia” and “iberians” have been multivalent since their appearance in greek writings starting in the fourth century bCE.During the reign of enrique IV (1454–1474). did not define Hispania in such a rigid way as the physical peninsula. 133]. or religious attachments. along with Murcia. was in north africa [chap. and very nice too. although the options are less than appealing.19]. Tingitania. while on other occasions it comprised the peoples of andalusia . while P. the term iberia is attractive because. Hispania. since at times it designated the inhabitants of the peninsula’s Mediterranean coast. because “iberia” does not denote only one culture. which was received through an arabic form as Sevilla . who conceptualized iberia as bordered by mountains and water. which was Hesperia.11 isidore wrote that the romans then changed Hesperia to Hispania ulterior and 10. and not necessarily as a delimited ethnic group [78–84]. although he does not link Hispalis to Hispania . I diacritics / fall–winter 2006 19 . 14. like the varying political and social configurations on the medieval peninsula. and not only to the iberian people of the eastern and coastal areas of the Levant [105. perhaps scholars could find an alternate word. isidore believed that they called italy Hesperia. when the greeks began to have a significant commercial impact on the peninsula’s Mediterranean coast [Tuñón de Lara 105–06].28].
the Latin Hispania generated españa. another scholar. for many. 4. due to the vicissitudes in medieval iberia. una entidad humana asentada en un territorio que la define y caracteriza y a la cual le sucede algo en común. arabic. he seems intent on linking medieval people to “the Land.19.” Oxford english Dictionary Online]. 14. 64]. it is clear that Hispania fails to represent the medieval iberian Muslim territory of al-andalus. uses Hispania to designate “a series of attachments to the history of the iberian peninsula as a frontier space” . he also sought a commonality in the use of the term. while recognizing its possible pre-roman roots. Sancho iii el Mayor. in addition. espanna. Catalan. while later ones linked españa to the common people [26–27]. alfonso Vii. for our medieval historians. for instance. “Hispanic” harks back to its first major public appearances in the news media during the nixon era in the early 1970s. and historical linguists today. an administration often considered averse to a majority of Latinos in the US [“Hispanic. Furthermore.” españa [556–57]. who probably associate it with critics’ traditional focus on texts in Castilian romance and Latin to the exclusion of cultural production in. although Maravall considered the concept of españa dynamic and changing (for example. alfonso Vi. as we have seen. in the early years of Christian expansion. essential thread that would connect medieval “Hispanic” people over many centuries is dubious. galician-Portuguese. and in fact elsewhere considers the concept an abstraction . for instance. generally agree that Hispania descends from Latin. the concentration on Castilian romance texts and cultures has predominated in medieval iberian studies until very recently. early historiographers focused on the lives of kings. which refers today to the modern nation-state. which was the vehicle for the distribution of a plethora of manuscripts and learning throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. España referred to Muslim Iberia and later extended to the entire peninsula. This connection may account in part for Hispania’s neglect by medievalists in the US. in addition. 12. since they were employed by romance scribes and not by writers from other linguistic and cultural traditions. medievalists nowadays often view these terms as anachronistic and narrow in scope when designating medieval iberia as a whole. and thus to the creation of a common community throughout the medieval period. a human entity located in a territory that defines and characterizes it. and to which something happens in common. as is well known. More recently. according to the following definition: “Spain is. Hispania and Hispanic have become associated ethnically or culturally with iberia’s pre-Muslim Visigothic and roman peoples. anthony Pym. or Hebrew. until finally designating the early modern nationstate of the Catholic kings in the late fifteenth century [Penny 30]. an entire history of its own” (“España es. for many in the US.citerior [chap. although numerous medieval chronicles and other writings in romance mentioned espanya. alfonso i el batallador. arguing for a constant knowledge of España on the part of Hispanic historiographers starting with isidore of Seville and continuing through the chronicles of. and alfonso X. although Maravall does not define españa as a modern nation.12 José antonio Maravall investigated the meaning of España in medieval historiography in el concepto de españa en la edad Media. and additional forms of the word during the period of Christian expansion in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. 20 . toda una historia propia” ). modern historians sometimes have dignified “Hispanic” in contrast to disparaged terms such as “arab” or “Muslim” in an effort to negate or criticize the impact of al-andalus and the Muslim presence on the peninsula from the early eighth to the early sixteenth centuries. This common. such as José Manuel Fradejas rueda  and ralph Penny [30. 28]. to the exclusion of Muslim cultural contributions. Thus. para nuestros historiadores medievales. a definition am unaware of any scholarship that deals with this contrasting definition of Iberia and Hispania in Isidore’s Etimologías.
Trigger. 2005 Site-specific interactive installation Pace University Digital Gallery .
Linehan rebukes the notion of “frontier behavior” as either reinforcing the goals of crusade or of convivencia. as a space between Muslim and Christian military forces. or nations. These concepts coincide with the openness that iberia allows in my critical efforts to create knowledge about the medieval period. Turner’s link has been roundly critiqued for its pejorative use as a division between supposedly barbarous indigenous peoples and civilized whites who conquered them [see Turner].that i find more appealing when applied to iberia because of iberia’s dissociation from an organized political entity or a specific textual tradition. Even in his study from 1989. For an overview of critical approaches to the term “frontier” from the late nineteenth century. angus MacKay diverted from this idea of the iberian frontier and instead questioned the supposed antagonism among Christians and Muslims along the fourteenth-century Castilian-granadan border. Pym reinforces medieval iberia as a frontier society. Linehan extends the idea of the frontier from iberia to the whole of medieval Europe. In the introduction to Medieval Frontiers: Concepts and Practices. Since Iberia is not attached to a group of people. burns.13 david abulafia and nora berend show that “frontier” is ambiguous in its application to medieval studies in general. How do i continue to approach its diversity and fullness? Pym highlights two theoretical concepts that i find useful as i move toward a greater understanding of medieval iberia: the idea of the frontier and the notion of association. and angus MacKay. as has Linehan in describing recently how soldiers from Europe arrived on the peninsula in the late Middle ages surprised to find Muslims and Christians sipping orange juice together . or as a site of Christian conquest. Medieval historians also usually connected the iberian frontier to the reconquista (reconquest). but the concept has changed and developed since its treatment by historians such as bishko. 22 . MacKay showed the frontier’s fluidity and frequent lack of definition. in addition. or from the insular view of iberia as restricted by coastal borders and the Pyrenees. but. he also asks. or as the territory governed by a conquering group of people [1–3]. despite my disagreement with his word choice. since it may be applied in varying ways. Pym attempts to broaden our understanding of iberia and wrest it from the limitations of such terms as Spain and españa. and categories of knowledge and identity. in suggesting that medieval Europe constituted a frontier space that lacked a stable social order and strict borders between political realms. cohabitation among different groups. His expansive notion of Hispania emphasizes the attachments to the history of iberia without denoting a relation to a political organization. Linehan also has demonstrated that divides among Christian kingdoms and dioceses in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries proved greater challenges to Christian sovereignty than the conventional idea of Christian-Muslim rivalry [46. see nora Berend’s preface [x–xv]. that is. even though i believe that Hispania and Hispanic indeed invoke a series of anachronistic and inaccurate associations that can be avoided with the term Iberia. that is. including as a site of political conflict or military battles. 14. empires. abulafia emphasizes the many meanings that the frontier implies as he explores seven types of ambiguity related to it. instead. where do i go from here? i am still only edging toward iberia and i never entirely capture it. borders. a political state. it has the potential for a wider range of meaning than Hispania. 50]. or a textual tradition. for my methods and theoretical approaches to medieval studies. if me13. the medieval iberian frontier permitted both. as an area without strict limits. So i settle on Iberia because it is not associated with ethnic groups. since it was the space where the “inconsistencies of human behavior” were played out . robert i. but what does this mean for my scholarship? if my choice of Iberia has implications for my research.14 abulafia and berend demonstrate that the frontier is understood as more than a site of reconquest. Medievalists such as Charles Julian bishko traditionally aligned the frontier with Frederick Jackson Turner’s ideas in the late nineteenth century that wed it to the american west [Linehan 37–38].
but i am not ready to abandon completely the idea of the frontier as a constantly fluid space of human “inconsistencies.” Ellenblum avers that scholars should focus on “spheres of various degrees of influence.” rather than on bordered political zones [109–10]. but instead of describing medieval society as a frontier. when the region was no longer properly defined by the line. diacritics / fall–winter 2006 23 . on hierarchies of difference within society. the frontier cannot be discarded as a theoretical concept because it was crucial in the efforts toward forging hegemony in early modern Spain. permeable quality of the frontier championed by Pym and Linehan. Ellenblum agrees that fixed borders were not part of the medieval spatial organization. according to Ellenblum. The iberian space of conflict. abulafia and berend’s book shows how diverse the concept may be. where was “the European hinterland or metropolis” ? where were the urban centers and the marginal. central areas had spheres around them with boundaries.” The frontier has to be something more than a mere line between varying factions and groups of people. but since those boundaries were mutable and changing. did the bonds between the groups unravel. and some kind of monoculture ensued from the various struggles. from the sixteenth century on it is increasingly difficult to conceive of iberia. according to Pym. and working things out was replaced by something else in the form of the Castilian or “Spanish” nation-state. despite the many atrocities of European conquest especially in the sixteenth century. iberia’s edge moved away. along with the establishment of the labor system of encomienda that rendered many indigenous people servile to Spanish lords. rural areas? in response to these questions. as in the Middle ages.  Spain’s eventual monoculture could only be initiated as the other was expelled from iberia and the plural frontier society moved to the americas. Pym indicates that Spanish america was more fluid than the metropolis in Europe . Ellenblum believes that medieval political communities “were more easily characterized by their centres or by their common association with a ruler than by their physical space” . it may be that the frontier cannot be understood as the edge of “the European hinterland or metropolis. Ellenblum makes an important point.dieval Europe was entirely a frontier. Pym believes that as the frontier was pushed out to the americas. historians today find it difficult to determine “well-defined zones. but rather. which included the extermination of large numbers of indigenous peoples. Thus. that is. which then surrounds urban centers and their outskirts. that everyone looked and acted the same or believed the same thing. The Spain of the great expulsions and the Inquisition could only be triumphant once the frontier had moved outward. but ronnie Ellenblum argues that “centers” should replace the border as a determinant medieval quality . i have shown that the attempted hegemony or monoculture of the early modern Castilian nation-state did not solely rest on the logic of similitude. according to Pym. The interdependence between the Spanish metropolis and the “frontier” society in the new world coincided with what i have described elsewhere as the early modern enterprise toward a more categorical ordering of society in which whole groups of people were deemed superior or inferior [1–2]. perhaps we cannot conceive of centers and hinterlands at all in the Middle ages. it is usually more precise to refer to Spain and Portugal. matches the political and cultural fluidity of the phrase “medieval iberia. cohabitation. so was a homogeneous society increasingly shaped on the peninsula: Only when the frontier itself moved further away. such an ordering was made possible because the frontier was pushed out to the americas. and abulafia goes so far as to call the frontier “a state of mind” . a space of struggle and conciliation.” but as a conceptual.” if not of all of medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. indeed. but. despite the fact that the Castilian nation-state was not absolute after the frontier moved out. tensions were unleashed. unfixed space. and instead. the shifting.
i am already there. and the Mediterranean. an edge is a paradox. Ed. as i edge toward medieval iberia. or it is the border and the line. then we shift our focus from geographical or political domains to dealings among groups of people. This is what i will do. when i edge toward it. and at other times it does not. Emilio Lafuente y alcantara. ajbar machmuâ (Colección de tradiciones). a border. rather than according to its supposedly inert qualities and absolute characteristics. Take the idea of the social itself. Surely at times it is necessary and appropriate to investigate and describe medieval iberia according to political boundaries and geographical limits. while at the same time recognizing the insufficiency of so many modern terms and concepts on which i must rely. and communities throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. Pym’s second concept of associations helps me understand iberia as a series of varying political and cultural associations among peoples of the peninsula and other regions. new York: oxford UP. c. Translation of akhbar majmu’a. 24 . Just as many critical theorists from gilles deleuze and Félix guattari to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick have emphasized an understanding of the human body through its constantly shifting attachments to other people and things. That iberia is a frontier. worKS CiTEd abulafia. Before european Hegemony: The World System a. iberia is the edge and what is inside. or political relationships. the atlantic.Edging toward medieval iberia takes on new meaning when considered in conjunction with the frontier. if iberia is a frontier. 1989. so too may we study medieval iberia in relation to its varying alliances with other regions and political realms. Madrid. Janet L. david abulafia and nora berend. itself a relatively modern idea. but often their imposition does not serve research efforts. abu-Lughod. if we recognize medieval iberia not as a peninsular terrain bounded by the Pyrenees. 1100-c. “introduction: Seven Types of ambiguity. 1500. then perhaps a greater confidence in the concepts of the frontier and associations will help me persist in edging toward iberia’s fullness. Medieval iberia is not an enclosed geographic or temporal space. 1867. but rather a network of interrelated attachments between varying individuals and groups. i am already at the edge. in medieval iberia and around it without ever fully encompassing it. nor even merely a yielding series of shifting kingdoms. The idea of associations extends medieval iberia from geographical and temporal boundaries to a series of cultural. economic. iberia sometimes has limits. an edge. burlington: ashgate. and not as a straightforward geographical area. an edge. 1250–1350. i will continue to search for ways to accurately research and describe medieval iberia. 1–34. which Michael Taussig questioned: Might not the very concept of the social. Ed. 2002. then with great difficulty may it be applied hundreds of years earlier to the Middle ages. be outdated insofar as it rests on assumptions of stability and structure?  if for Taussig “the social” is a modern notion that was outdated at the end of the twentieth century. but as a series of associations between the peoples who inhabited and ruled the broad area of the peninsula. a space of conflict and cohabitation. or iberia is the border but not a line.D. a place on the one hand and a space on the other. if such modern terms are anachronistic or limited in scope. a border. david. nor does it always contribute to a deeper understanding of the medieval period.” In Medieval Frontiers: Concepts and Practices. and trans. but not merely a line. The frontier is at once a border.
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María Rosa Menocal is Sterling Professor of the Humanities and Director of the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University. She is currently working on a book manuscript titled The Task of the Cleric. She is the author most recently of Making Difference in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia (U of Notre Dame P. and Crossings From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance (Duke UP. and on epistolary discourse in the experimental fifteenth-century novela sentimental. Yale UP. 2005 Site-specific interactive installation Pace University Digital Gallery .Contributors Alain Badiou is Professor Emeritus and former chair of the Department of Philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure. He is the author of Framing Iberia: Maqamat and Frametale Narratives in Medieval Spain (Brill. He is the author of Being and Event (French original 1988. 2004). She specializes in fifteenth-century narrative and Isabelline literature. Cristina Guardiola is an assistant professor in Medieval Spanish Literature at the University of Delaware. and philology. Women. Jews. 2005). Brownlee is Robert Schirmer Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at Princeton University. and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture. Her most recent book is The Arts of Intimacy: Christians. 1999). fall 2008). sentimental fiction. Oscar Martín is an assistant professor at Yale University. and Logics of Worlds (2006). Wacks is Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Oregon. Cultures. Jesús Rodríguez-Velasco is Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and the Program of Medieval Studies and Chair of the Catalan and Occitan Studies Program at the University of California. Cover: Trigger. David A. Josiah Blackmore is Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Toronto. Hutcheson is an associate professor of Spanish at the University of Louisville and coeditor of Queer Iberia: Sexualities. He is the author of Moorings: Portuguese Expansion and the Writing of Africa (2008) and Manifest Perdition: Shipwreck Narrative and the Disruption of Empire (2002). Gregory S. 2007) and coeditor of Wine. coauthored with Jerrilynn Dodds and Abigail Krasner Balbale (forthcoming. Her publications on the Middle Ages include books on late medieval reading theory and the Libro de buen amor. Berkeley. Jean Dangler is Associate Professor of Spanish and Medieval Iberian Studies at Tulane University. English translation forthcoming in 2008. English translation 2006). and Song: Hebrew and Arabic Poetry in Medieval Iberia (Juan de la Cuesta Hispanic Monographs. He is preparing a book with the tentative title of Medieval Heroism for Sale: Marketing and the Location of Heroic Traditions in the First Century of Printing. and coeditor of Queer Iberia (1999). Marina S. Simone Pinet is Associate Professor of Spanish at Cornell University. with interests in medieval epics.
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