MI Lecture: Ryan Szpiech (University of Michigan), "In the Name of the Father: Translation and Anxiety in Medieval Castile (1250-1369)"


Location: Medieval Institute Reading Room (715 Hesburgh Library) AND live on YouTube (View on map.nd.edu)

The Medieval Institute is pleased to present a lecture by Ryan Szpiech, Associate Professor of Spanish and Director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan. 

About the Talk

After the Christian conquest of Muslim Seville in 1248, Christian leaders did not erase all traces of Islamic presence, but instead adopted Islamic elements in some of the new structures they built. The use of Arabic as a decorative motif, such as on the tomb of the conqueror of the city, Fernando III, invoked the prestige of the language while signifying the conquest and appropriation of Islamic culture through translation. At the same time, the monument, built by his son King Alfonso X, represents a gesture of filial piety and devotion to the memory of Fernando as an ideal father. This lecture will explore the significance of translation in Alfonso's court as it intersected with the image of fatherhood and genealogy. It will propose that for Alfonso, translation was not an unambiguous act of conquest or propaganda, but was also an expression of uncertainty about sources of authority and legitimacy.

About the Speaker

Ryan Szpiech is Associate Professor of Spanish with appointments in the Departments of Romance Languages and Literatures, Middle East Studies, and Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan, where he is also Director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies. He has published numerous articles on medieval polemics, translation, and religious conversion, and is the author of Conversion and Narrative: Reading and Religious Authority in Medieval Polemic (2013), editor of Medieval Exegesis and Religious Difference: Commentary, Conflict, and Community in the Premodern Mediterranean (2015), co-editor of Interreligious Encounters in Polemics between Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Iberia and Beyond (2018) and Astrolabes in Medieval Culture (2019), and, since 2013, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Medieval Encounters. He recently completed the documentary film The Birth of Spanish in 3D (available in open access) about Arabic translation in the courts of Castilian Kings Alfonso X and Pedro I.