CAS RN 410/HI 410 GRS RN 710 STH TX871

Religion, Community, and Culture in Medieval Spain


Professor: Deeana Klepper
147 Bay State Road, Room 408
617 358-0186

All the lands in their diversity are one, and men are all neighbors and brothers
al-Zabaidi, tutor of Caliph al-Hakam II of Cordoba (961-976)



Catedral de Santa María, Burgos
Great Mosque, Cordoba
Synagoga El Transito, Toledo


In this course, we will explore interactions between Muslims, Christians, and Jews in medieval Europe's most religiously diverse region - from the establishment of an Islamic al-Andalus in 711 CE through the final Christian "reconquest" of the peninsula and expulsion of the Jews in 1492 and expulsion of the Moriscos (Muslims forcibly converted to Christianity) in 1609. Themes include religion and communal identities, the complexities of cultural engagement in pluralistic environments, and toleration and its limits. You can expect to gain an understanding of current scholarship in the field, to develop familiarity with primary sources and methods for interpreting them, and to engage both of these things in the construction of a substantive research paper (for undergraduates) or bibliographic essay (for graduate students).

Course Requirements:

Students are expected to attend and participate in every class. If you know that you will miss class because you are sick or are away from school for an emergency, please try to let me know ahead of time, if possible, via phone or e-mail.  More than two unexcused absences during the semester may result in a lower overall grade in addition to an unsatisfactory class participation grade. Graded work for the seminar will include class participation (30%); weekly response papers (30%), and a final research paper (40%). Students will also be expected to prepare and lead discussion on one week's reading.  The class participation grade will be based on attendance, the level of your preparedness to discuss the material, your presentation to the class/discussion leading during your assigned week, and your general involvement in the seminar.  Please note that students must complete all written work in order to receive a passing grade for the class.

Note: University policy is that students have the right to be excused from class for the observance of religious holidays. However, it is your responsibility to notify faculty ahead of time and to arrange to make up any work you might miss. If you plan to miss class for this reason, you must let me know at the beginning of the semester.

Expectations of Integrity: All students should familiarize themselves with the Boston University Academic Conduct Code or College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Academic Conduct Code as appropriate and adhere to it. Please see also my plagiarism policy.

Students with Disabilities:  Any student with a documented disability who requires academic accommodations should contact Disability Services as soon as possible to request an official letter outlining authorized accommodations. If you suspect that you may have an undiagnosed disability that is interfering with your success in your coursework, please come see me and I will help direct you to the appropriate resources at BU.

Required Books:

Bernard F. Reilly, The Medieval Spains (Cambridge University Press, 1996) ISBN: 9780521397414

Maria Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World, (Back Bay Books, Reprint Edition ISBN: 9780316168717

Olivia R. Constable ed., Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources, 2nd Edition (U Penn Press, 2011), ISBN: 9780812221688

Burton Raffel, trans. Song of the Cid, (Penguin Classics, 2009) ISBN: 9780143105657

Peter Cole, trans. and ed., The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492, (Princeton, 2007) ISBN: 9780691121956

Ibn 'Arabi, Sufis of Andalusia, trans. Ralph Austin (Routledge/Taylor reprint, 2013) ISBN: 9780415850896

Lu Ann Homza, ed., The Spanish Inquisition: An Anthology of Sources, (Hackett, 2006) ISBN: 9780872207943


Copies of required books will be held on 24 hour reserve in Mugar Library.


Other Readings:

A number of readings are available on the Blackboard Learn site or directly through Mugar Library. Please bring all readings to class each week. You may either print out electronic readings or bring your laptop or tablet to class.


Response Papers: Students will be asked to write weekly 2-page response papers, due by 11:59 on Sunday. Students may opt out of this assignment any three weeks of the semester (i.e., you will write ten responses over the course of the semester). Each response will be worth a possible 10 points for a total of 100 points over the course of the semester.

Final Paper: Students will write a final research paper on a topic of their own choosing. Undergraduate papers should be 12-15 pages long, graduate papers should be 15-20 pages long. Guidelines may be found below.

Discussion Leading: There will be a sign up sheet for discussion leading. Take a look and choose a week that works for you in terms of topic, schedule, or both. By 11:59 PM Sunday night of the week you are scheduled, you should post a brief entry to the Blackboard Learn Blog highlighting some of your thoughts on the document(s), book, or article on which you'll be leading discussion, including several questions for classmates to ponder. In class, you will give a presentation of no more than 10 minutes and will be given the opportunity to manage discussion. Feel free to contribute graphics, timelines, etc. Most weeks we will have two presenters, and you are encouraged to work together to establish a division of labor and content.


Sep 2 What is at Stake: Concerns about Religious Intolerance Today and the Idealization of Religious Pluralism in Medieval Spain

Sep 9 Envisioning a Pluralistic Ideal: The Construction of "Convivencia"

            Maria Rosa Menocal, Ornament of the World, 1-100; 174-188; 244-283

Additional Graduate Reading: Menocal, Ornament of the World, entire

Sep 16 Jews in Visigothic Christian Spain

Olivia Remie Constable, Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources, 2nd ed., 3-29; Bernard Reilly, Medieval Spains, ; Rachel L. Stocking, "Early Medieval Christian Identity and Anti-Judaism: The Case of the Visigothic Kingdom," Religion Compass 2:4

Sep 23 Muslim Arrival and the Establishment of al-Andalus

Constable, Medieval Iberia, 31-66; Reilly, Medieval Spains, ; Jessica Coope, The Martyrs of Córdoba: Community and Family Conflict in an Age of Mass Conversion (Lincoln, NB, 1995), xv-xvii, 1-34 [Learn]; Chronica Prophetica, trans. Kenneth Baxter Wolf

Additional Graduate Reading: Kenneth Baxter Wolf, Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain (Cambridge, 1988) [Library of Iberian Sources Online]

Sep 30 The Umayyad Caliphate and its Courtly Culture

Constable, Medieval Iberia, 75-100; Maribel Fierro, ‘Abd al-Rahman III: The First Cordoban Caliph (Oxford, 2005), pp. 105-131 [Learn]; Abraham ibn Daud, "The Succession of the Rabbinate," Book of Tradition, Gershon Cohen, ed., trans., 63-67 [Learn]; Andalus: Moorish Songs of Love and Wine, trans. T. J. Gorton (London, 2007), pp. 28-29, 32, 36, 41-52; [Learn]; Peter Cole, Dream of the Poem, 23-69

Oct 7 Conquest, (Re)conquest, and Frontiers

Constable, Medieval Iberia, 131-141; 273-292; Reilly, Medieval Spains, ; Jonathan Ray, The Sephardic Frontier: The Reconquista and the Jewish Community in Medieval Iberia (Cornell University Press, 2006) 1-54; 145-179 [Learn]; Brian Catlos, The Victors and the Vanquished: Christians and Muslims of Catalonia and Aragon, 1050-1300 (Cambridge, 2004), 71-120 [Learn]; Oldradus de Ponte, Consilium 72, "Whether a war against the Saracens of Spain is licit"[Learn]

Oct 14 BU on Monday Schedule: No Class

Oct 21 Song of the Cid

Burton Raffel, trans., The Song of the Cid

Oct 28 Arts and Religious Identity

Katrin Kogman-Appel, "Hebrew Manuscript Painting in Late Medieval Spain: Signs of a Culture in Transition," The Art Bulletin 84 (2002); Jonathan Decter, Iberian Jewish Literature: Between al-Andalus and Christian Europe, Introduction and Chapters 1-2 [Learn]; Cole, Dream of the Poem, 143-164; 173-191

Research Paper Proposals Due by 11:59 PM

Nov 4 Religious Devotion and Mysticism

Ibn 'Arabi, Sufis of Andalusia, Ralph Austin, ed., trans.; Cole, Dream of the Poem, 74-110; 119-120; 154-170; Diana Lobel, A Sufi-Jewish Dialogue: Philosophy and Mysticism in Bahya Ibn Paquda's Duties of the Heart (Philadelphia, 2007), Chapters 1 and 2 [Learn]

Additional Graduate Reading: Lobel, A Sufi-Jewish Dialogue, entire [Mugar Library reserve]

Nov 11 Urban Space and Religious Identity

Maria Menocal and Jerrilynn Dodds, The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture (New Haven, 2009), 45-94; 132 [Learn]; Elka Klein, Jews, Christian Society, And Royal Power in Medieval Barcelona (Ann Arbor, 2007), Chapters 1, 2, 8, and Conclusion [Learn]

Nov 15: Annotated Bibliographies Due by 11:59 PM

Nov 18 Food and Religious Identity

David Freidenreich, Foreigners and Their Food: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law [excerpts on Learn]

Additional Graduate Reading: Freidenreich, Foreigners and Their Food, entire [Mugar Library reserve]

Nov 25 Conversions

Constable, Medieval Iberia, 399-414; Paola Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew: Conversion and Inquisition in the Crown of Aragon (Philadelphia, 2012), 1-10; 63-98 [Learn]; David Nirenberg, "Conversion, Sex, and Segregation: Jews and Christians in Medieval Spain," American Historical Review 107 (Oct. 2002)

Dec 2 Expulsion of the Jews and the Conquest of Grenada; Converted Jews and Muslims in early modern Spain

Constable, Medieval Iberia, 496-523; 535-546; Lu Ann Homza, ed., trans., The Spanish Inquisition: An Anthology of Sources (Indianapolis, 2006); Renée Levine Melammed, Heretics or Daughters of Israel? The Crypto-Jewish Women of Castile (Oxford, 1999), Chapters 1 and 4 [Learn]; Mary Elizabeth Perry, The Handless Maiden : Moriscos and the Politics of Religion in Early Modern Spain (Princeton, 2005), Chapters 1-3 [Learn]

Additional Graduate Reading: Mary Elizabeth Perry, The Handless Maiden, entire [Mugar Library reserve]

Dec 9 Convivencia, Again...

Jonathan Ray,"Beyond Tolerance and Persecution: Reassessing Our Approach to Medieval 'Convivencia'" Jewish Social Studies, New Series, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Winter, 2005), pp. 1-18; Kenneth Baxter Wolf, "Convivencia in Medieval Spain: A Brief History of an Idea," Religion Compass 3 (2009)


Thursday, Dec 11: Final Papers Due. Submit to Learn site by 11:59 PM