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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Medieval Iberian Chivalric Narratives: Deconstructing Meaning in the Language about the Other

Pablo Pastrana-Perez.

The Iberian Middle Ages stands as a mosaic of multiculturalism. Three macro cultures, namely, Christians, Moslems and Jews, defined by their differences in religion, language and culture in general, coexisted for eight centuries with various degrees of tolerance and peace. Although history books tend to emphasize the conflicts brought about by conquests and reconquests (war, ethnocentrism, racism), one can hardly escape the multiple initiatives for cultural exchange, interdependency and peaceful coexistence. Paradoxically, to the constant struggle to preserve one's identity and define it as inherently different from the other, we must add the countless efforts to bridge differences and build a multicultural society. The sum of both tendencies resulted in the complex world of Medieval Iberia, a space that has remarkable similarities with today's globalizing world, where the efforts towards multiculturalism are marred by the alienation of the other. In this paper, I underline the multiple approaches to speaking about the other in a popular medieval genre, the chivalric narrative.
For all intents and purposes, the marriage between chivalric fiction and the incipient printing press stands as the closest antecedent of today's relationship between mass media and the Internet. Although the comparison may seem whimsical and far-fetched, there are multiple lessons we can extract from it for the construction of the new world order. I take the multiple linguistic approaches to speak about the other in the Iberian chivalric narratives as the model for the construction of a multicultural discourse, applicable to today's globalization.


Pablo Pastrana-Perez  (United States)
Assistant Professor in Spanish
Department of Foreign Languages
Western Michigan University

I did my Ph.D. in Spanish at the University of Wisconsin. I currently teach the History of the Spanish Language, Old Spanish and the Spanish Middle Ages at Western Michigan University. My current research is about the short chivalric narratives of the late Middle Ages.

  • Semantics
  • The Other
  • Spanish
  • Chivalric Narratives
  • Globalization
  • Multiculturalism

(30 min Paper presentation, English)