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The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History

A Forgotten Heritage

By Maria Rosa Menocal

Publication Year: 2004

Arabic culture was a central and shaping phenomenon in medieval Europe, yet its influence on medieval literature has been ignored or marginalized for the last two centuries. In this ground-breaking book, now returned to print with a new afterword by the author, María Rosa Menocal argues that major modifications of the medieval canon and its literary history are necessary.

Menocal reviews the Arabic cultural presence in a variety of key settings, including the courts of William of Aquitaine and Frederick II, the universities in London, Paris, and Bologna, and Cluny under Peter the Venerable, and she examines how our perception of specific texts including the courtly love lyric and the works of Dante and Boccaccio would be altered by an acknowledgment of the Arabic cultural component.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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pp. ix-xvii

Accident and coincidence play as prominent a role in directing and shaping an individual's work as do perspicacity and good sense, perhaps a larger one. In the case of my own interest in how western scholarship has structured its view of the medieval past, both accident and an aging Lady Philology played...

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CHAPTER ONE: The Myth of Westernness in Medieval Literary Historiography

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pp. 1-26

Modern civilization's myriad pretensions to objectivity have unfortunately tended to obscure the fact that much of our writing of history is as much a myth-making activity as that of more primitive societies. We often regard tribal histories or ancient myths that do not cloak themselves in such pretensions...

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CHAPTER TWO: Rethinking the Background

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pp. 27-70

A half dozen years before the birth of William IX, duke of Aquitaine, who was to become one of the most powerful men of his time in both political and cultural affairs, there occurred one of the most famous and well-documented examples of the taking of Arabic cultural "booty" by southern French...

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CHAPTER THREE: The Oldest Issue: Courtly Love

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pp. 71-90

Perhaps no area of medieval Romance literary studies so well illustrates the decisive effects of a preconceived image upon scholarship as does the problem of the origins and formal characteristics of the vernacular lyric. At the very center of this wide-ranging subfield is the lyric poetry written in southern France and...

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CHAPTER FOUR: The Newest "Discovery": The Muwashshahāt

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pp. 91-113

The first and principal benefit of the reorientation of our scholarship should be to enable us to bring to fruition a new type of comparative textual analysis, an analysis not focused on the question of origins as this question has previously been profitably and legitimately carried out in the study of the medieval...

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CHAPTER FIVE: Italy, Dante, and the Anxieties of Influence

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pp. 115-136

There can be little question that Dante Alighieri and his diverse works, both fiction and nonfiction, stood at a significant crossroads in the development of European artistic and intellectual life. Over the succeeding centuries, the vast power of his magnum opus alone has earned him a virtually unrivaled place...

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CHAPTER SIX: Other Readers, Other Readings

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pp. 137-154

There is at least one reader of Dante, Boccaccio, who in his own reworking and interpretation of Dante in the Decameron is intrigued by the complexity and problematic nature of literary and philosophical relations with the European-Arabic world—and by Dante's perceptions of them. It is a fortunate coincidence-...

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pp. 155-160

I write this afterword nearly twenty years after writing The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History. Although the book bears an original copyright date of 1987, most of it was in fact written between 1983 and 1985, while I was an assistant professor in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania...


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pp. 161-177


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pp. 179-184

E-ISBN-13: 9780812200713
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812213249

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2004