[P4775] Literary Genealogy in Medieval and Modern Iberia and North Africa

Created by Kevin Blankinship
Tuesday, 11/21/17 8:00am


"Good and smooth paper is made from the pulp of the illiterate and undisciplined. Order is made from chaos, and we call it History." This is Maria Rosa Menocal's thoughtful reframing of the Iberian past to make room for its Middle Eastern contributors, channeling a distinction made by Foucault between the "solemnities of the origin" implied by History, versus the "field of entangled and confused parchments" signaled by Genealogy. In turn, this distinction is crucial to the formation, evolution, and reception of literature -- namely, literary history -- in medieval and modern Iberia and North Africa. Scholars have indeed done much to reveal the winding path of literary change in these lands. Yet basic accounts of the reception of eastern (Mashreqi) prestige texts, the spread of lyric forms like the muwashshah, the development of the North African novel, the contours of genre, and other topics still retain the shape of narratives with a single solemn origin, direct organic "influence," and linear progress through a few key figures. These smooth narratives do insufficient justice to the "entangled and confused" thicket of cultural products and their transformation through time.

It is here that this panel intervenes. We explore what might be called literary genealogy, that is to say, the infusion of literary history with an openness to the countless channels by which texts move across time, place, and language, or to the varied and supple nature of "influence." How and why does the evolution of devices, texts, styles, and genres manifest continuity as well as breach? How do creative discourses like imitation and adaptation refract texts in new ways? What role do art, architecture, music, and other human expression play in literary change? Why do some texts endure and others not? How does the afterlife of texts show multiple origins, inspirations, or connections? By delving into these questions as related to medieval and modern Iberia and North Africa, we take to task the resiliency of grand narratives about literary and intellectual production, then suggest questions, gaps, ambiguities, ruptures, and counter-narratives. Or to use Professor Menocal's imagery, we will try to see the coarse, jagged pulp from which the smooth paper of literary history is formed.





Suzanne P. Stetkevych

(Georgetown University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Gretchen A. Head

(Yale-NUS College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Enass Khansa

(Harvard University/AUB)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Kevin Blankinship

(The University of Chicago)
Kevin Blankinship is a PhD candidate in medieval Arabic literature at the University of Chicago and a current Fulbright-Hays scholar in Morocco. His research is mainly on poetry, whether lyric, gnomic (wisdom), or devotional; Arabic-Romance comparisons;...
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer; Presenter;

Nizar F. Hermes

(University of Virginia)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;