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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


SP Myth and Invention: Medieval and Early Modern Iberian and Latin American Culture

SP Myth and invention: Medieval and Early Modern Iberian and Latin American Culture

Course Convenors: Prof. Rodrigo Cacho (, Section of Spanish & Portuguese

This module focuses on the medieval and early modern culture of the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. The various seminars consider concepts such as myth, history and invention as capital ideas in the formation of literary and ideological identities. Myths such as the imagined community of Christian inhabitants of the Peninsula before the Arab Conquest and the downfall of Spain due to King Roderick’s sins are read against the backdrop of medieval historical sources and modern theoretical discussions. Myths elicited by Portugal’s fraught imperial history are discussed in connection to 16th-century shipwreck narratives, which both construct and undermine religious imperialistic discourses. Baroque culture gave these principles a final twist, producing condensed religious plays that, thanks to the use of contradictory allegories, merged Christianity and paganism in order to craft a vision of the world where political power is both essential and pointless: myths revert on themselves leaving traces of an empire that is dissolving, inevitably, with the passage of time. Faced with the signs of a crumbling empire at the end of the eighteenth century, the Spanish monarchy looked back at the conquest of the New World as a moment of great imperial power. The resurgence of the debates about the legitimacy of the possession of the Indies is analyzed in connection to the myth of an uncivilized pre-Columbian America and the opposing creole narratives that extolled the cultural complexity of native societies.    
There will normally be a maximum capacity of 14 for this module.

Preliminary reading:
Simon Barton, A History of Spain, 2nd edn (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), chaps 2-4
Josiah Blackmore, Manifest Perdition: Shipwreck Narrative and the Disruption of Empire (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002)
Jorge Cañizares Esguerra, How to Write the History of the New World. Histories, Epistemologies, and identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World (Standford, California: Standford University Press, 2001)
Roger Collins, The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710-97 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989; reprt 1994)
Anthony Grafton, What Was History? (Cambridge: CUP, 2007)
Derek W. Lomax, The Reconquest of Spain (London/New York: Longman, 1978)
Jonathan Thacker, A Companion to Golden Age Theatre (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2007)


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