In this engaging study Jean Dangler examines the way that ideas of difference were forged in four types of medieval Iberian discourse: muwashshah/jarcha poems from al-Andalus, Andalusi "cutting poems," medical literature about the body, and portrayals of the monster. According to Dangler, these texts demonstrate the two fundamental precepts of medieval Iberian alterity: multifaceted subject formation and the embrace of contrasts and the negative.
Medieval Iberia was a multicultural territory of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian societies. These communities had constant geographic, cultural, political, and economic contact with one another. Because medieval Iberia was not hierarchical and homogenous, medieval subjectivity was not always marked by essential qualities of character, but was mutable and shifting. The adverse was often esteemed in the making of meaning and the forging of the social order. Dangler explores how the four discourses she analyzes changed in the early modern period, from an acceptance of difference to more rigid concepts of subjectivity and the marginalization of difference. This shift accompanied the rise of the Castilian nation-state and its imposition of static hierarchies of value.
This book will appeal to a broad range of medievalists. It makes an important contribution to the growing interest in medieval Iberia and offers a nuanced understanding of medieval history and culture in general.
About the Author:
Jean Dangler is associate professor of and chair medieval Iberian Studies at Tulane University.