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  • Reinventing Medieval Iberian Studies
  • Emily C. Francomano

When I was invited by my colleagues at the Hispanic Institute to participate in this centenary celebration, I accepted with delight and then felt almost immediate trepidation at the remit: a critical reappraisal of my field of expertise, one that is diachronic in nature and also discusses the field's relationship to Hispanism more broadly. What, I thought, is my field? (or perhaps the emphasis should be on the personal pronoun: what is my field?). As much recent writing on the practice of medieval studies has suggested, it is a field (or assemblage of fields) determined by personal identities and desires. Although academic medievalists in the past may have prided themselves on the empiricism of their practices, much recent work has shown that the lines between medieval studies, as academic discipline, and medievalism, as learned amateur endeavor are often quite blurry.1 The same can of course be said for work in early modern studies, since the two periods overlap frequently in both academic practice and popular reception. So, first, I will position myself as I enter into this centennial dialogue: I identify as a medievalist, an early modernist, a comparatist, a translator, and as a recent convert to the digital humanities. I have used the prefixes hispano and Ibero before medievalist, and have in the past even called myself a "Hispanist," though the historical implications of this term now make its use problematic.2 I work mainly with Castilian, Catalan, French, Italian, and English texts produced from the thirteenth to the seventeenth-centuries. My research focuses on the intersections of gender, material hermeneutics, and studies on adaptation and translation, including neomedievalisms. I have also dedicated much of my energies over the past decade to bringing texts from the Castilian tradition to the notice of wider readerships through translation into English. I have long felt that we as Hispanists, Iberianists, and Latin Americanists—whatever we call ourselves—have a great deal of both academically oriented and public-facing work to do because of the overwhelming dominance of the discipline of English in medieval and early modern studies in the United States. To put it very and overly simply, in a country with such a large Spanish-speaking population, study of [End Page 61] literature and culture from the Middle Ages and early modernity must go beyond Chaucer and Shakespeare.

In the editors' invitation to participate in this centenary celebration of the Hispanic Institute they called attention to the geopolitics of naming, to the shifts from "Hispanic" to "Latin American" and "transatlantic," and from "Spanish and Portuguese" to "Latin American and Iberian Cultures," which "reveal some of the cultural tensions that have shaped our discipline over the last hundred years." I would not be the first medievalist to remark that the most profound change in our field in the past decades has been the move from what Clara Pascual-Argente has aptly called the "ill-fitting and in many cases plainly fictitious use of 'medieval Spain' to the geographically oriented and more capacious use of the term 'medieval Iberia'" (481). The shift from "medieval Spain" and "Hispanomedievalism" to "medieval Iberia" and also to "Mediterranean studies" has been most apparent in the Anglophone academic world, but it has profound resonances in academic, political, and popular reflections on what used to be called la España medieval in today's Spain as well. A piece of this length cannot address the many sweeping changes that the field has seen in the past decades, which include an embrace of critical theory, cultural and gender studies; the emergence of the "new" or material philology and a return to the archives; the decline of traditional Romance philology, at least in the United States; and the rise of the digital humanities with an attendant resurgence of textual criticism.3 The digital turn has done much to foster connections among Ibero- and Hispanomedievalists practicing in North and South America and Europe, but further discussions are needed about how our geographical locations, institutional traditions, and cultural understandings of how we relate to the past shape our scholarly desires and practices. Here, I will concentrate on the shift in terminology, its connections to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6446
Print ISSN
0034-9593
Pages
pp. 61-71
Launched on MUSE
2021-03-03
Open Access
No
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