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Music, Poetry, and Lingua Franca in Medieval Iberia

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image of Philological Encounters

This essay examines three different points of cultural contact between Muslims and Christians in medieval Iberia as documented in three different bodies of texts. In each example, the use of a lingua franca results in the exchange of cultural ideas and the re-presentation of one group in the language of another. The first point of contact is in the court of Córdoba in the early 9th century as recorded in an Arabic biography of a musician, which has survived only as excerpted in a later encyclopedia compiled across the Mediterranean in Syria in the 14th century. The second point of contact takes place only a few decades later, also in Córdoba, and is documented in a Latin epistle composed by a Christian during a period of increasing tension between Muslims and Christians. The third point of contact occurs in Aragon and Catalonia in the late 14th and early 15th century, where ‘Moorish’ and Jewish musicians and dancers were regularly hired to perform at the courts of the royal family and other nobles, the evidence for which is found in financial records composed in Old Catalan. Each of these examples provides evidence of cultural contact that could significantly change our understanding of the relationship between cultural and linguistic groups in this period.

Affiliations: 1: University of California Santa Barbara


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