Spanish 285: The World of Alfonso the Wise

W 3-6P, BARROWS 180 | Instructor: Meerkhan | CCN: 26002

Units: 4

In the middle of the thirteenth century, Castile was an expansive kingdom with a comprehensible need for self-definition. After conquering vast lands that had been under Muslim rule for centuries, a far more intricate mission awaited the monarchy: resituating Spain on the political map of Christian Europe. It was at this crucial juncture in Spain’s history that Alfonso X “The Wise” (1221-1284) inherited the throne of Castile. This course’s goal is twofold. First, we will analyze how Alfonso the Wise, along with his circle of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim polymaths, reworked, amplified and deftly accommodated Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, and Islamic sources. Though the course focuses on literary works such as Calila e Dimna and the Cantigas de Santa Maria, we will also analyze excerpts from critical legal and historical texts, such as Las Siete Partidas and the Estoria de Espanna, whose influence extends beyond Medieval Spain to modern-day Latin America.

Second, we will contemplate the Medieval roots of three polemical concepts: Reconquista, Convivencia, and pureza de sangre. Careful readings of canonical Medieval texts such as El Cantar del Mío Cid, La Celestina, as well as exemplos from El Conde Lucanor will shed some light on how said concepts were constructed retrospectively.

The class will include presentations on themes related to the primary sources. For the final research paper, students are encouraged to investigate possible Medieval influences within their own fields of investigation.

*This course is also intended for students preparing for the General Examination.