Viewing the other: Jews, Moors and Afro-Moors in Alfonsos X's "Las Cantigas de Santa Maria"

Date
2009
Authors
Benitez, Julio
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Abstract

The purpose of my study is to investigate the portrayals of Jews and Moors in Alfonso X Cantigas de Santa Maria. Although many scholars have written about Alfonso X portrayals of Moors and especially Jews, I will present an image-centric, as opposed to the more commonly published textual approach. I begin by presenting a short over view of Alfonso X life. I will then briefly review the range and scope of Alfonso X cultural production in order to place the Cantigas within the context of his intellectual accomplishments. Starting from a general overview of the Cantigas, I will narrow my focus to those cantigas that center on Jewish and Muslim characters and narratives. I provide both the text and the image to determine if one is dependent on the other, or, if the are each independent from the other. How is the "Other" represented? Specifically, the issue of skin color within the heterogeneous representation of the Moors in the Cantigas. In doing so, I find that race matters in Alfonso X's portrayal of the Afro-Moor, the darkest of his Moorish characters. In conclusion, I find that Alfonso X was no more negative in his representations than the rest of European Marian literary tradition yet he provided the Other with a means of transformation and acculturation: conversion. The color of the Afro-Moor dictates what position he holds with the military (the lowest) and who he associated with (the Devil) as a result of his blackness.

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Keywords
Cantigas
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Department
Art and Art History