Authority and Spectacle in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia, Part 2: In Honor of Teofilo F. Ruiz: Spectacle in Medieval Iberia and Beyond
American Academy of Research Historians of Medieval Spain 1
Interests in “authority” and “spectacle” run parallel through Teofilo Ruiz’s scholarship. Professor Ruiz’s numerous articles and his recent book A King Travels: Festive Traditions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain (Princeton University Press, 2012) have drawn our attention to an understudied area of culture. His work has helped build our awareness of spectacle as a mechanism of authority, social control, and social integration. It has likewise revealed how the multiple participants and audiences that produced spectacle rendered this mechanism ambiguous and ambivalent. A second set of panels in honor of Teofilo Ruiz considers a wide variety of spectacles and their function and impact on individuals and society. The first panel explores spectacles that enact purity in the body and the realm of medieval Spain and its surrounding world. Paul Freedman opens the conversation by examining seasonal dining habits in medieval Europe. Seasons of course affected the local availability of particular foods. Seasons also influenced eating habits, as foods, thought to possess humoral qualities, could be helpful or harmful to the body depending on what time of year they were consumed. From the body’s ingestion of food, Kate Craig takes a look at the reliquary remains of saints and the processional entries they made into towns in high medieval France. Their entries served to articulate relations between visitors transporting the relics and local communities, and they also illuminate social dynamics within towns themselves. Spectacles of purity in the body and the realm continues with David Nirenberg’s discussion of the threat Christian poetics felt from “Judaism” in thirteenth-century Castile. Nirenberg investigates perceptions of this threat, the way poets made use of Judaism to justify their poetic pursuits, and the relationship Christian poets and poetics had with Jewish communities in Castile. The establishment of boundaries between Christian and non-Christian commuinities in the body politic also occupies Francisco García-Serrano’s study of mendicant orders in late medieval Spain. Drawing upon spectacles of poverty for moral credibility, Franciscans and Dominicans came to play roles mediating theological matters, bridging social groups including royal families and nobles, and articulating religious boundaries between Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Finally Antonio Zaldivar explores the relationship between language expression and community by analyzing King Peter III of Aragon’s orders to mobilize his army in the face of French invasion in 1285. Rather than Latin, these documents were articulated in the Romance vernaculars of Catalan and Aragonese. While this shift accentuated the urgency of Peter’s communiqués, it also raises the question of the relationship between language and national identity. Engaging with Professor Ruiz’s work as a point of departure, these papers consider extraordinary and quotidian spectacles and the impacts they made on conceptions of the self and the body politic.
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