S. J. Pearce Office hours: m 12: 30-2: 30, or by appt

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Freshman Honors Seminar [######]

Mondays, 3:30-6pm

[A room, a building.]

S.J. Pearce

Office hours: M 12:30-2:30, or by appt.

13-19 University Place, Rm. 425


The Hall of the Ambassadors, Granada, 1492.

Imagined in a diorama in the Diaspora Museum, Tel Aviv.

Course Description: The year 1492 in Spain is the very definition of a watershed. Four major, related events took place that completely altered the social, political, religious, intellectual, literary and linguistic landscape: the city of Granada, the last Muslim principality in Spain, fell to the Catholic crown of Castile and Leon; the order was signed and carried out expelling or forcing the conversion of Spain’s Jews; with Spanish backing, Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to the New World; and the first grammar of a vernacular Romance language, Castilian, appeared in print and was dedicated to the queen in honor of her imperial ambitions. This course will examine literary and historical writing about these events. Through careful reading of primary sources and attention to modern historians’ rhetoric in writing about 1492, students in this seminar will explore how these events were implicated in the formation of national and religious identities in late medieval and early modern Spain. Reading in a wide variety of genres will give way to diverse writing assignments in a variety of genres to help prepare students for further coursework in the humanities.

Course Rationale: The events of the year 1492 offer an unusual chance to look back and, from a distance in time and space, observe one corner of the world changing completely, almost overnight. More than that, they left behind a large number and wide variety of texts in which people living through those events tried to make sense of them and to create a coherent narrative about what happened and why it was significant for them and in the world. The purpose of this course is to muddy the waters of that narrative a bit, recasting events that are traditionally portrayed as manifestations of religious belief, fervor, practice and conquest as being driven likewise by the desires for money, power, territory, honor and knowledge. It also seeks to blur the boundaries between the different kinds of writing that record and describe those events, asking how texts that are conventionally called history work in concert and conflict with texts that are conventionally called literature to give a more complete and nuanced picture of the zeitgeist. In this seminar, we will be particularly interested in the rhetorical strategies that late medieval and early modern Spanish writers utilized when writing about any or all the events of 1492: How did people define themselves as part of a group, and how did they include or exclude others in their categories? How did the four events coalesce to create one? To what extent are they separate? Does 1492 represent continuity with earlier events and ways of reading and writing, or does it represent a break from them? We will also consider the very direct and proximate fallout of these events around the globe, particularly in the New World and the Ottoman Empire. How were these interests, goals and conflicts of the events of 1492 transferred into other arenas? How did old strategies serve new goals? In what ways (and why) were they adapted, changed or developed? How did the importation of an existing framework govern the terms of new discussions?

Required Books
Course Packet
Adorno, Rolena. Colonial Latin American Literature: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: UP, 2011.

Constable, Olivia Remie, ed. Medieval Iberia, second edition. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

Carvajal, Doreen. The Forgetting River. New York: Penguin, 2012.

Dante Allighieri. De Vulgari Eloquentia, ed. Steven Botterill. Cambridge: UP, 2005. (Don’t worry: They’ve left the Latin title intact, but it’s an English translation.)

Irwin, Robert. The Alhambra. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2004.

Murphy, Cullen. God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World.

Menocal, Maria Rosa. Ornament of the World. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2004.

Núñez Muley, Francisco. A Memorandum for the President of the Royal Audiencia and Chancery Court, ed. Vincent Barletta. Chicago: UP, 2007.

Copies of the required books and the course packet are available for purchase at the NYU Bookstore. (The books, though not the course packet, are often available at a substantially lower cost online at sites such as Amazon or ABE Books). One copy of each book is also on reserve at Bobst. Students should plan to complete all readings prior to the class session for which they are listed.

Suggested Further Reading

If any of the topics we cover in class inspires you to read more, these books are good places to start. These books include works of literature and history that relate to our course material and can all be found in Bobst:

Harvey, L.P. Islamic Spain 1250-1500. Chicago: UP, 1990.

---. Muslims in Spain: 1500-1614. Chicago: UP, 2004.

Kennedy, Hugh. Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus. [Publ. Info.]

Maalouf, Amin. Leo Africanus. New York: New Amsterdam Books, 1998.

Mann, Vivian, et al. Convivencia: Jews, Christians and Muslims in Medieval Spain. New York: George Braziller, 2007.

Menocal, Maria Rosa, et al., eds. The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature: The Literature of al-Andalus. Cambridge: UP, 2000.

Peters, F.E. The Voice, the Word, the Books: The Sacred Scripture of the Jews, Christians and Muslims. Princeton: UP, 2007.

---. The Children of Abraham. Princeton: UP, 2006.

Rushdie, Salman. The Moor’s Last Sigh. New York: Vintage, 1997.

Assignments and Grading

Assignment Type

Due Date



of Final Grade

Compare and Contrast Essay


3-4 pages


Primary Source Analysis


3-4 pages


Research Paper


7-8 pages


Microhistory or Close Reading

December, TBA

7-8 pages


Online Presentation and Discussion Moderation


500-700 words (+/-3 pages)


Active Participation in Class




Active Participation in Class: Participating actively in class does not just mean asking great questions or making insightful observations, although that is a big part of it. It means preparing for class carefully and in advance so that you can participate in the discussion with specific reference to the readings for the week. It means bringing your copies of the readings to class. It also means not using electronics in ways that are not related to class. (For example: Taking notes on your laptop, reading a course-related PDF on your tablet, or reviewing the class blog are all examples of pertinent and acceptable uses of technology in class. Texting, browsing your Instagram feed on your phone, or playing Nintendo DS under the table? Not acceptable.)
Late Work: Assignments are due at the beginning of the class session on the date they are due. Work handed in after that point will be marked down one grade-step per day that it is past due. (An assignment that would have earned a B+ but is one day late will earn a B; the same assignment that is two days late will earn a B-, etc.) Every student is entitled to one no-questions-asked extension during the semester, which can be arranged by contacting me at least two days in advance of the due day. This extension may not be used on the research paper assignment.
Extra Credit: Students who complete all of the required written assignments will have the opportunity to earn additional points beyond the rubric outlined above. (In other words, you can’t decide not to do one of the required assignments and then make up the points through extra credit.) The following are the opportunities for extra credit: 1) Completing any of the optional readings listed in the syllabus and writing a brief (2pp) reading response or attending an extra discussion meeting. 2) Attending all of the optional field trips. 3) Visiting a local museum exhibition or other cultural program on your own and writing a brief (again, 2pp) response. A list of possibilities will be provided to students, and you are welcome to investigate your own options and clear them with me. You may complete as many extra credit assignments as you see fit.
Guidelines for Written Work

  • Spell-check and proofread your work.

  • Each assignment should be typewritten using 12-point Times New Roman. Work should be double-spaced with no additional spaces between paragraphs. Each page should have a 1” margin on all sides. Pages should be numbered and stapled together.

  • Do not wait to print until right before an assignment is due. Technical difficulties will not excuse lateness.

  • With the exception of the online presentation, written work will not be accepted electronically.

Academic Integrity: Students will adhere to the guidelines set forth in NYU’s academic integrity policy, which may be found on the following web site:http://cas.nyu.edu/page/ug.academicintegrity. Any instance of plagiarism or academic dishonesty will result in a failing grade for the course at a minimum, per the process outlined in the policy. Ignorance of the policy in general or of its specifics will not mitigate against any penalty. Any student who has any question about whether an aspect of his or her work might constitute academic dishonesty is encouraged in the strongest possible terms to consult with the instructor before handing in the assignment in question.

Civil Discourse: This course deals with cultural, artistic, political and personal relationships between members of the three Abrahamic faiths in a historical context. At times, texts and discussions will challenge the perspectives that students bring into the class based on their own experiences. I encourage you to ask questions and to develop strong and thoughtful opinions about the course materials and to express them in class and in your papers, while respecting the thoughtful opinions and perspectives of your classmates and the ideas expressed by the authors we will read.

Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities are welcome to speak with me before the end of the second week of the semester to request accommodations that will facilitate their successful completion of the course requirements. In order for accommodations to be made, students must register with the Moses Center for Disability Services.
Schedule of Class Meetings, Assignments, and Readings

I. Introduction, Part I. (9/9)

II. Introduction, Part II. (9/16)

Readings: Ornament, pp. 101-111; 130-200. Medieval Iberia, texts 4, 7, 47.

III. Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition! (9/23)

Readings: God’s Jury, pp. 25-102. Medieval Iberia, text 59.

 Compare-and-contrast essay due.

IV. The Alhambra Palace (9/30)

Readings: The Alhambra. Medieval Iberia, text 33.

V. The Siege of Granada and the Expulsion Order (10/7)

Readings: Ornament, pp. 244-52. “Conquest to Conversion” (CP). Medieval Iberia, texts 61 and 62.

Fall Break. No Class 10/14. —

VI. Language Has Always Been Empire’s Companion. (10/21)

Readings: De Vulgari Eloquentia (pp. 1-45, odd numbered pages only). Excerpts from the Alfonsine corpus (CP). Medieval Iberia, text 3. Introduction to the Gramática de la lengua castellana (CP). “Hordes of Readers” (CP).

 Primary source analysis due.

(Just a place-holding note about assignments from here on out: The final two writing assignments will be scaffolded, meaning that some small piece of them or related writing exercise will be due each class session for the rest of the term. This will obviously be fleshed out in greater detail in the final version once I have finalized the assignments.)

VII. Foreigners, Fairy Tales and Far-Away Lands (10/28)

Readings: Excerpts from Amdadis de Gaula (CP). [A secondary reading TBD.]

Optional Field Trip: Metropolitan Museum of Art

VIII. Christopher Columbus (11/4)

Readings: Colonial Latin American Literature, pp. 12-20. Excerpts from Columbus’ logbook and related documents (CP).

IX. Chronicling the New World in Castilian, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. (11/11)

Readings: Excerpts from López de Gómara’s General History (CP). Colonial Latin American Literature, pp. 35-55. Excerpts from Double Diaspora in Sephardic Literature (online: http://davidwacks.uoregon.edu/2011/10/29/amadis/ and http://davidwacks.uoregon.edu/2012/01/02/translation/ )

X. Defending Those Who Remained (11/18)

Readings: Francisco Nuñez Muley’s Memorandum to the President, pp 55-101. Don Quijote, introduction and I.9 (CP). Medieval Iberia, text 63.

Optional Field Trip: The Hispanic Society of America

X. Workshop Day (11/25)

No new readings.

 Research paper due.

XI. Finding Those Who Left (12/2)

Readings: The Forgetting River, pp. 43-108. “From al-Andalus to North Africa,” (CP). [One additional reading TBD.]

 Research paper due.

XII. Whence Tolerance? (12/9)

Readings: All Can Be Saved, pp. ##. The Forgetting River, pp. 279-293. [One additional reading TBD.]

XIII. Conclusions: 1492 in the Present (12/11)

Readings: The Forgetting River, pp. 201-240, 255-262. “Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella Consummate Their Relationship” (CP). “The Book of Exodus,” (CP).

Optional Field Trip: Cooking like the Conversos.

 Your microhistory/close reading will be due at the end of the finals block that corresponds to the class.

DRAFT, 15 April 2013.

Expect changes before the start of the term.

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