Sympathy or Antipathy? Aspects of Christian Attitudes to Moors in Medieval Spanish Ballads

Jan Gilbert (Cambridge University, UK)

The debate surrounding the presence of 'modern' critical theory in the study of medieval Spanish literature is a well-rehearsed one. In this paper, I hope to demonstrate that Postcolonialism offers a set of theoretical tools particularly suited for addressing questions of race and religious difference as they are portrayed in selected frontier ballads of the medieval Spanish ballad tradition of the Romancero. I will make particular reference to Edward Said's Orientalism in order to examine various aspects of relationships between Moors and Christians in ballads which, in general, have previously been interpreted as Islamophile texts. With reference to certain romances fronterizos, thus, I shall explore the following issues: the West's representation of the East through binary oppositions; the portrayal of Orientals as naturally possessing certain traits; and, the muting of the threat of the alien through its familiarisation in a range of discourse which allows the West knowledge of the Orient and therefore power over it.

Postcolonial OV discourseov Casablanca Conference

Last modified: 7 May 2001