University of Minnesota
Iberian Studies Initiative

Graduate Courses


(Trans)Nationalism and the Postcolonial Imagination

Transnationalism, a broad concept that encompasses the myriad national allegiances and increased mobility typical of a world rendered smaller by globalization, challenges the fundamental compartmentalization of the globe brought about by early twentieth-century Imperialism. Colonialism and the different iterations of post-colonialism aided in reaffirming many of the structural divisions, such as First World-Third World, that pervaded imperialist mindsets. This course, with special emphasis on African and Latin American migration to Portugal, Spain, and Catalonia, examines the conditions of possibility for the emergence of transnationalism through a study of texts, films, and visual art rooted in an array of geopolitical contexts. The course thus examines the viability of traditional theories of Nationalism and discusses why the European Nation-State is poorly suited for the challenges that transnational realities present. The following questions will be addressed: What are the inherent exclusions and false assumptions embedded within European Nationalism? What is the optimal political organization for a world defined by movement, multiplicity, and instability? What is the relationship between neo-colonialism and globalization?

Trauma and Conquest in the “Spanish” Middle Ages

This class explores through literary and historical texts how conquest and trauma have defined Iberian Medieval Studies. The class, like the Iberian Middle Ages, will be framed by readings that represent and question the two dates that have traditionally been used to demarcate the Spanish Middle Ages, 711 and 1492. In the first part of the class we focus on historical and literary accounts of the arrival of Muslims to the Peninsula (including Arab and Alfonsine histories, romances and Pedro de Corral's Crónica Sarracina). We will read these texts through the lens of recent theoretical work that explores modes of representation for violence and trauma (incl. Cathy Caruth). The Spanish epic, the Cantar de Mío Cid will serve as an intermediary reading that connects (or disconnects) discussions of trauma and invasion with those of conquest and memory, which will be the dominant themes of the second half of the class. During the final weeks we will engage with texts written by and about 1492 as a date of rupture marking the expulsion of non-Christian subjects (Muslims and Jews) from Spain. Fifteenth- and sixteenth-century texts written by moriscos and Sephardic Jews in diaspora (including Arabic and cancionero poetry and the history of Eliyahu Capsali) that discuss the Expulsion, as well as modern studies of it (including those of Elizabeth Perry, H.P. Harvey, Gil Andijar) will be central in our discussion of memory and trauma.

“La ‘perdida’ de España” (The Loss of Spain)

Hispanists have claimed that one Rodrigo lost Spain, and another recovered it. This model of Spain as a nation lost by the last Gothic king, Rodrigo, blamed for "losing" the Iberian Peninsula to the Muslims in 711, and recovered by Rodrigo Bivar, el Cid in the 12th century, despite its anachronistic (false) reading of the past, has been mobilized in post 9-11 (3-11) contemporary Spanish society to fan new fears of Islam. In this class we will read key historical texts about the legend of Rodrigo "el último rey godo" and el Cid (including the epic poem), studies by 20th- and 21st-century Spanish intellectuals who frame these myths to further particular visions of the Spanish past that respond to very contemporary political circumstances, as well as critical pieces that help theorize memory and nationalism. Students will be required to present on one of the readings and write a paper.

Teorías de la traducción en el mundo ibérico. The Translation of Knowledge.

This class explores theories and methods of translation developed in the Iberian world from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century and positions these Iberian theories and models in the context of the growing field of Translation Studies as it is developing in contemporary North American and Europe (primarily in English).

La Otra Edad Media: el caso de Iberia.

The Muslim presence defines the Middle Ages on the Iberian Peninsula, distinguishing Iberia from the rest of Western Europe. In this class we will examine how this unique reality affected both Iberian literature and modern criticism of it.

Literature of the Religious Minorities of Medieval Iberia.”

En esta clase analizamos obras representativas de los grupos minoritarios de la península ibérica en la Edad Media: judíos, cristianos y musulmanes. Mientras la Reconquista iba alcanzando poco a poco las tierras de al-Andalus, la Iglesia también empezaba a reestablecer su dominio sobre grupos de gente que había sido gobernados por la ley y cultura islámica por siglos. Naturalmente la producción literaria de esta sociedad iba reflejando este cambio. A pesar de ser minorías en esta nueva sociedad cristiana, musulmanes y judíos eran todavía los intelectuales y tenían el papel de embajadores entre la sofisticada cultura del Norte de Africa y el "Medio Oriente" y la cultura más guerrera y menos destacada de los cristianos del norte de la península. Los traductores judíos y musulmanes eran clave en la introducción a Europa de una serie de textos médicos, religio-filisóficos, y ficticios procedentes del mundo musulmán.

Undergraduate Courses

Medieval Technologies: Beyond the Human in Medieval Iberia

This class explores how medieval Iberian thinkers and writers conceived of and incorporated the newest, cutting edge technologies into their writings. While issues such as the transhuman, robots, cyborgs, artificial intelligence and computers are almost universally assumed to be modern phenomenon, medieval thinkers—scientists, theorists and writers—also pondered questions such as how technology could be used to enhance man's natural (human) capabilities as well as how such technologies impacted the way people lived and experienced life. The Iberian Peninsula was the center for European technological innovation, given it was the crossroads through which information and ideas passed from the East (from China through the Muslim world) to the West (Europe). In this class we will examine what medieval technologies were, including new methods of organizing and collecting information (such as Ramon Llull's “thinking machines” and medieval treatises on artificial memory, often hailed by specialists in information technology as early models for the computer), tools for enhancing everyday life, such as agricultural and architectural innovations, tools for better exploring the known world, such as the astrolab, ship designs and cartography, and, in addition, war technologies, such as Arab war strategies and armor. Central to the class will be an investigation of the ways in which such information was communicated across cultures, either through the translation of scientific treatises or the creation of fiction, which often created imagined alternative worlds in which these technologies served other less practical purposes, such as the assistance of a hero in his symbolic personal or religious quest as in the Caballero Çifar, the Libro de Alexandre, or Don Quijote. The latter often attempt to locate these new technologies, often first perceived as seemingly inexplicable or wonderous (or even magical), into the prevailing religious or cosmological system, as best exemplified in Don Juan Manuel's Conde Lucanor. This necessarily entails an examination of religious thought and interconfessional dialogues and differences in the Iberian Peninsula, such as Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, Ibn Rushd's Commentaries, and Ibn Tufayl's Hayy ibn Yaqzan (Alive, son of Awake). Early Spanish works such as the Libro de Alexandre, in which Alexander builds wonderous machines to dive beneath the seas and to fly above the earth explore the limits of man's knowledge and technological abilities or the Caballero Çifar, in which we find automatons that recall earlier Arabic models such as al-Jazari's robots for pouring wine, the bronze robots found in the story of the City of Brass and the Ebony Horse in the 1001 Nights.

Medieval Narratives in the Modern World

Some of the greatest stories in world literature—Knights of the Round Table, dragon-slayers, djinn performing magic, pilgrims descending to Hell—date from the Middle Ages, but have been retold in various forms between then and now to serve a variety of purposes. They have formed the basis of national myths, provided excuses for defining some people as different, strengthened religious beliefs, idealized love, and provided excellent entertainment. In this class we will read medieval texts from Western Europe, the Arab world and Persia, and look at some of the ways these stories have been retold in the modern era in fiction (both adult and children's), film, and the visual arts. We'll discuss what the narratives meant to the societies that created them and how they have been interpreted differently in modern cultures.

Contando cuentos en la tradición ibérica: Telling Tales in the Iberian Tradition. (Issues in Hispanic Cultures)

En esta clase exploraremos los orígines de los cuentos en marco en la tradición ibérica y su legado en la literatura moderna. Será necesario investigar cómo los españoles y los latinoamericanos adoptaron una forma literaria "oriental" a contenido que deriva de las tradiciones europesa y americanas. Las primeras traducciones castellanas de obras árabes eran de coleciones de fábulas, fablieux (cuentos cortos en francés) y espejos de príncipes (consejos para gobernar). Tales coleciones venían a ser muy populares en todos los países europeos y tenían un impacto en la creación de la novela (supuestamente) moderna. En esta clase leeremos cuentos de una de las colecciones de cuentos en marco más antigua en la lengua castellana, El Conde Lucanor y una adaptaci´øn moderna realizada por el autor argentino moderno, Jorge Luis Borges. Además leeremos cuentos de la colección de cuentos en marco más conocido, Las mil y una noches. Exploraremos cómo los problemas textuales y teóricos que surgen alredador de las 1001 Noches son semejantes a los que surgen de una lectura de las colecciones de cuentos españoles. Examinaremos cómo esta larga tradición de cuentos en marco en la Península ibérica influjo en el desarrollo de una de las primeras novelas modernas, Don Quijote de La Mancha.

El arabismo español/ Spanish Orientalism

This class explored how the Muslim presence on the Iberian Peninsula from 711-1492 illicited a series of different responses from Iberian authors both during the period and since. Muslims are quite common as both authors and subjects in the literature produced in medieval Spain, and, given the large population of Muslims in contemporary Spain because of immigration from North Africa, this fact continues to inform Spanish culture and society. In this class we will read key texts from the Iberian Middle Ages, such as the Cantar de Mio Cid and the romances, in which Muslims play important roles in the construction of a national “Spanish” past. We will also read works written by Muslims, such as poetry written by moriscos facing their expulsion from the Peninsula in 1492. In addition we will investigate how the representation of Muslims in these medieval works informed more contemporary representations in film and t.v. Throughout the class we will explore how Iberia, the “area of the Mediterranean which underwent the most protracted encounter between Christianity and Islam,” complicates the notion of Orientalism popularized by Edward Said as a product of modern European colonization.

Span. 110A. Medieval Iberia

his class explores the different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups that played important roles in medieval Spain. For some 700 years, medieval Iberia was known as Al-Andalus, the Arabic term for the Iberian Peninsula. The indelible mark left by over half a millenium of Islamic presence on Iberian society is one of the most interesting and exciting aspects of Spanish culture and history, and is fundamental in understanding not only medieval Spain, but also subsequent periods of Spanish culture from the Conquest to the Franco period. In this class the main text will be María Rosa Menocal's Ornament of the World, supplemented by articles and excerpts on selected topics.

Comp. Lit. 103/Span. 150. Winter 2003. "Women, Beauty, and Sex in Medieval Iberian Letters.”

This class explores the ideals of sex, women, and beauty as expressed in several texts of the multi-ethnic, linguistic and religious society of medieval Iberia. While the stereotype of medieval society may be that of a moralistic, Christian society obsessed almost exclusively with death and the world to come, Al-Andalus, medieval Islamic Spain, however, was a society very much concerned with the pleasures of this world. This culture produced a series of erotic treatises, fictional accounts and poetry addressing the practicalities of finding, keeping and pleasing a lover. Reading a sampling of these texts, such as Ibn Hazm's The Dove's Neck Ring, Sheikh al-Nafzawi's The Perfumed Garden, and Juan Ruiz's Book of Good Love, we will explore how stereotyped images of women and beauty came to be an essential part of these works.

Spanish 101A Iberian Literature: Origins to the Present”

Spanish 150. Immigration and Trauma in the Iberian World. Winter 2007

Span. 116. Fall 2002, Winter 2002. “La literatura medieval de la Península Ibérica (Medieval Literature of the Iberian Peninsula.”)

Course sites:

Univ. Stud. Medieval Iberia: Al-Andalus

Univ. Stu. 3. Winter 2002. “Al-Andalus: The Example of Medieval Islamic Spain

Span. 110. Winter 2002. “Medieval Iberia: España de las tres culturas (Tricultural Spain)”