Medieval belonging and oriental otherness in figurations of Iberia

Medieval belonging and oriental otherness in figurations of Iberia
07 Feb 2018, 17:30 to 07 Feb 2018, 19:30
IHR North American History Room, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Nadia Altschul , University of Glasgow

This presentation examines the naming of Spanish and Portuguese America as medieval and Moorish in the first half of the nineteenth century. The belief in the medieval-Moorish character of Iberia reached its peak in British Romanticism, while the renewed interested in Spain has been associated either with the Romantic penchant for the exotic or with the Peninsular War (1812-1814). This talk will start with the long-durée of the paradoxical positioning of Iberia as both medieval (temporally backwards) and Moorish (ontologically different). In particular, however, it will entertain a different understanding of the sudden fascination with medieval Islamic Spain that is found in British Romanticism, positing that Muslim Iberia was an anxiety-provoking example of cultural contagion at the time British power was growing in India (1813). As an example of these contaminating capabilities, the talk will turn to Lord Byron’s Orientalized view of medieval and early nineteenth-century Spain in the first canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812), the canto that propelled him to global celebrity.


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