E 392M • Islam and Europe
5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Since the rise of Islam in the 7th century, there has been no period in history when Europe has not been in competition with Islamic civilization, variously defined. For a post-9/11 world, the best known of these international contests is the 200-year struggle for territory, geopolitical domination, and religious supremacy known as the crusades, in part because of the multiple legacies of the crusades with which the 21st century still struggles. Medieval Europe, however, also conducted more complex negotiations with Islam--in philosophy, medicine and science, literature and the arts, and mercantile and trade relations. Indeed, the gradual consolidation of Europe's collective identity--fissured, unstable, insecure--out of a time when Europe was merely "Latin Christendom" (the territorial agglomerate of the dispersed peoples of the Latin rite) owes much to a long, complex negotiation with Islamic civilization. This seminar is an invitation to explore what Islam, Islamic peoples, and Islamic societies meant to Western Europe over the long haul of the Middle Ages: crucible of international relations emerging later in modernity. We'll consider how Christendom responded to what it admired in Islamic culture and society: such as the statecraft and chivalry of distinguished military leaders like Saladin (Salah ad-Din Yusof), the philosophy of Averroes (Ibn Rushd) and Avicenna (Ibn Sina), and the ubiquity and success of Muslim traders and merchants across the far-flung world.
We'll also read documents from the history of extended military conflict and political-religious contestation between Europe and Islam. We'll explore depictions of Islamic 'terrorism' such as the 12th century cult of the Batini, or Assassins, and the 'false paradise' of luxury and sensuality associated with such depictions. We'll examine the formation of class identities, and gender and sexual relations, in the matrices of war, international politics, commerce, and cultural production. We'll ask how medieval Jews and Jewish communities figured in the relations between Christians and Muslims. Alongside original documents, we'll read or re-read a selection of contemporary cultural theorists: Edward Said, Talal Asad, Gil Anidjar, etc. As far as possible, texts will be read in modern English, but knowledge of original languages is a significant advantage.
Sample texts (suggestive, subject to change, open to negotiation): Autobiography of Usamah, Beha ad Din, Life of Saladin, Arab Historians of the Crusades (selections), Richard Coer de Lyon, The King of Tars, Roman de Saladin, Sowdan of Babylon, Marco Polo, Divisament du Monde, The Book of Sir John Mandeville,