Abstracts for the 2022 symposium: Globalism

Najlaa Ramadan Abdulaziz Aldeeb, Swansea University, UKGlobalism in Paul of Antioch’s Letter to a Muslim Friend and Its Refutation by Ibn Taymiyya

While the common themes of pre-modern travel literature are pilgrimage, indigenous customs, agriculture, flora and fauna, Paul of Antioch’s treatises focus on the Islamic-Christian debate. These letters were unknown to both Arab Christians and Muslims because they were buried in the manuscript repositories of Europe and the Middle East. After his journey to Rome and Constantinople, which was under Byzantine rule, Paul sent a letter entitled Letter to a Muslim Friend to his Muslim friend who wanted to know what these learned Byzantines thought of Muhammad. In this letter, Paul of Antioch undermined the universality of Islam arguing that it was intended only for the Arabs. In 1316, an anonymous Arabic-speaking Christian apologist in Cyprus edited and sent the letter to the Muslim theologian Ibn Taymiyya, who in turn wrote a refutation in his book Al-Jawab al sahıh [The Correct Answer]. Although commentators have criticized Paul’s method, mainly his use of the Qurʾan for apologetic purposes, I argue that his letter and its refutation by Ibn Taymiyya are examples of medieval globalism because they reflect the authors’ intellectual and cultural milieus and follow the rationality of interreligious dialogue adopted by twenty-first-century academicians.


Sally Abed, Alexandria University, Egypt: Between East and West: John Pory’s Translation of Leo Africanus’s Description of Africa


Al-Hasan al-Wazzan, dubbed Leo Africanus later on, was a sixteenth-century Andalusian diplomat who wrote his Description of Africa (1550) to a Western audience while in captivity in Rome. In his work, he reintroduces an Africa to his audience that runs counter to their long-held assumptions. Leo Aficanus’s text acquires a global aspect with its many translations and lives just as he himself becomes a global figure with many lives and identities. In 1600, John Pory, an English administrator and traveler, translates Africanus’s work into English, which remains the only English translation. This paper mainly examines the changes Pory made in translation and the interpolations he inserted. Questions of transmission and translation become crucial as the paper looks at Pory’s presentation of Leo Africanus and the attempt to tie him to a Western lineage in order to make him and his book more globally accepted.

Maha Baddar, Pima Community College, Tucson, AZ: From Compromising to Un-Apologetic: An Account of the Encounter Between Arabic Scholarship and Greek Philosophy in the Work of al-Kindi and Ibn Sina 

The medieval Arabic Translation Movement took place in Baghdad between the eight and tenth centuries CE. This movement has produced a massive amount of scholarship that spanned many disciplines that, as is well-known, has been labeled as translation, summary, and commentary. Arabic philosophers such as al-Kindi, followed by al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, al-Gazali, Ibn Rushd, and many more have produced valuable contributions to fields such as logic, rhetoric, dialectic, and poetics.

It is worth noting that al-Kindi’s translation circle was the very first academic team that addressed Greco-Roman philosophy. In this light, al-KIndi was faced by the challenging task of making the teachings of “pagan” philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle compatible with the thinking of the Muslim audience he addressed, as well as the theologians of the time. In doing so, al-Kindi’s writing shows elements of compromise to make Greco-Roman thinking seem well-suited to Islamic teachings, and, in the process, at times, his writing misrepresented both traditions. Unlike al-Kindi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) was openly unapologetic about how his thinking deviated from the work of Greco-Roman thinkers, especially Aristotle, in a later, more mature stage of Arabic philosophy.

This paper will examine the trajectory of the Arabic encounter with the Greco-Roman tradition. It will first introduce the religious, social, and philosophical environment of the earliest stage in the Arabic encounter with the Greco-Roman tradition as exemplified by the work of al-Kindi. I will then introduce a more established Arabic engagement with the same Greco-Roman tradition two centuries later in the work of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) who openly claims that his encyclopedic work, al-Shifa’a, is neither a summary nor a commentary on Aristotle, but is his own purely innovative work.


Thomas Ballhausen, Mozarteum University, Salzburg, Austria: 

Global Beowulf: On Strange Ecologies and the Import/Export of Monsters

The epic poem Beowulf (after ca. 700) has been received productively across national and linguistic borders, and aspects of transfer are already inscribed in the basic structure and understanding of this work on a wide variety of levels. Across literary and editorial history, Beowulf went from being a Scandinavian export to an Old English import, from being a historical source that instigated social conventions and historical traditions as a relationship between history and myth, to a work of fiction and the fantastic. As to Beowulf, for instance, there is evidence of numerous, cross-media works of productive reception, which on the one hand, by problematizing the question of historical sources, brought about a shift toward a reflexive literary work, and on the other hand, critically questioned the internal structures and the intradiegetic mechanisms or distribution of roles in the epic itself. With reference to the theme of the symposium, this paper will therefore focus on three works, Bay Wolf (Neil Gaiman), Beowulf spricht (Thomas Kling), and Beowulf: A New Translation (Maria Dhavana Headley), which understand Beowulf as a work of European literary history and respond to it intentionally as lyrical translations or even modern retellings.


Chiara Benati (Università di Genova) – Marialuisa Caparrini (Università di Ferrara): The Germanic Translations of Lanfranc’s Surgical Works as Example of Global Circulation of Medical Knowledge

Lanfranc of Milan (1245-1306) is considered one of the most influential surgeons of the late Middle Ages and his Latin works – the Libellus (opusculum) de chirurgia, better known as Chirurgia parva (Lyon, 1293-1294), and the Liber de chirurgia (Ars complete totius chirurgiae) or Chirurgia magna (Paris, 1296) – have informed surgical practice until the beginning of modern surgery in the sixteenth century. The importance of Lanfranc’s works is witnessed by the large number of vernacular translations which were produced in the years following their compilation and which made Lanfranc’s scholarship and his sources’ available throughout Europe also to those who did not read Latin. Among these sources, we find the twelfth-century Latin translation of Albucasis’s Surgery by Gerard of Cremona (1112-1187), a book which, as shown by Monica Green (2011: 336-344) circulated widely in Italy, but was so difficult to find in other parts of Europe, such as present-day France, Germany, England and the Netherlands, that Lanfranc himself is thought to have brought a copy of the Latin Albucasis with him when he moved to France. Therefore, the vernacular translations of Lanfranc’s works contributed significantly to the circulation of the surgical part of Albucasis’s Kitab al-Tasrif (The Method of Medicine).

In this paper, the Germanic (English, German Dutch) translations of Lanfranc’s works will be taken into consideration with respect to their vernacular rendering of the passages which are more strongly indebted to the Islamic tradition, in order to highlight how knowledge spread in from one culture to another and from one language to another.


Amina Boukail (University of Jijel, Algeria) and Abdoulaye Samaké (University of Bamako, Mali / University of Lausanne, CH): The Global Fable in the Middle Ages: K.alila wa Dimna in Cross of Eastern and Western Cultures

Kalila wa Dimna had been produced first in India and it then moved across different countries and continents. Even though this text resisted the different changes imposed by the several translations and rewritings, it was therefore subject to some cultural transformation through its history of reception in the Western culture.

With view to the Eastern and Western cultures, our paper aims to investigate how Kalila wa Dimna can be considered as a medieval global narrative text. By analyzing the mobility of some stories in Kalila wa Dimna, we will examine in this paper different aspects of medieval globalism in the fable as a global literary genre characterized by a dynamic cross-cultural interactions. Our analysis will articulate around two principal axes:

          1. Kalila wa Dimna between Arabic and Hebrew: challenges of the translation

          2. The reception of Kalila wa Dimna in Western tradition (German and French): Rewriting in new context.


Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona: Globalism in the Niederrheinische Orientbericht

While research on pre-modern travel literature has mostly focused on pilgrimage accounts, there are available also reports by such famous travelers as Marco Polo and Odorico da Pordenone (not to mention the mendacious John Mandeville). Only recently, the Niederrheinische Orientbericht (14th c.) has been made available in a modern critical edition and also in a modern German translation. This narrative presents astounding perspectives with very few parallels in late medieval travelogues, with the anonymous author obviously having traveled far to the East, and having brought back with him detailed knowledge about the fauna and flora of the Middle East. Here we observe a true case of medieval globalism centered on scientific observations and historical interests in the various cultures.


Leo Donnarumma, University of Grenoble “Alpes” and University of Naples “Federico II”: Globalization and Battlefield: The Encounter Between the Ottomans and the Neapolitan Army in the War of Otranto in 1480

At the end of July 1480, a strong army led by Gedik Ahmet Pascià landed in Southern Italy near the city of Otranto. During the siege, the fury of the Ottomans was unleashed because of the killing of the Turkish ambassador, sent to deal with the surrender of the city. The Ottoman army represented the elite soldiers of the Middle East and for the next year had to face one of the most specialized armies of Italy, the army of the Kingdom of Naples. Thanks to some recent research, it is now possible to shed new light on this clash: the Neapolitan army, reformed in 1464 by Ferdinand I, included soldiers coming from all of the European countries and showed their own versatility against the Ottomans and a divergent way to fight a war. It was not only a confrontation between two armies but a demonstration of two different cultures, a cross destined to leave tangible signs in history, societies, and geography of the places involved in the war: a real encounter of foreign worlds. This talk aims to deepen our understanding of the composition of the armies, especially the Neapolitan one, and compare the two different ways of fighting by analyzing unpublished diplomatic and fiscal sources of the fifteenth century and international scholarship around the topic.

Amany El-Sawy, Alexandria University, Egypt: Globalization and the Harem Travel Narratives: Encountering the Ottomans in Shakespeare’s Othello


Reading about Turkish history, Ottoman history, Ottoman women, their sparkling and glorious lives in Ottoman palaces, and Turkish men and the battles they won and lost only nurtured and deepened my curiosity. Thus, the aim of this paper is to shed light on European travelers’ accounts about Ottoman society, how Turkish society was received and perceived in global medieval texts, how Shakespeare might have thought about it, and how he perceived and portrayed Turkish men and women. Shakespeare could have picked up his information and understanding of Turkey by reading travel writers such as Richard Hakluyt, Richard Knolles, and Thomas Dallam, who fed the public interest by describing characteristics of the Turks. These depictions of Turkish people, including Turkish woman, involved certain stereotypes (cruel Turks, bloodthirsty people, and submissive women) that proved useful to Shakespeare’s depiction of both Desdemona’s and Othello’s behaviors and their lives in the citadel in Cyprus, a place that has never been studied carefully for its cultural context. Scholars have not discussed the importance of Cyprus in understanding Desdemona and Othello’s characteristics. It is a general assumption that Desdemona is a Venetian woman and Othello is a black Moor. However, Shakespeare’s depiction of both Desdemona and Othello is more than an issue of a marriage between a white woman and a black man. Hence, the paper tries to explain how travelers described their first-hand experiences in Ottoman society in particular. These travel narratives might be the source of Shakespeare’s information about Ottoman culture and harem life. Thus, this paper introduces travel narratives and how these narratives and accounts contributed to the understanding of people. I use travel narratives that describe encounters with Orientals—specifically with Turkish men and women in the Mediterranean. I explain that travelers such as Hakluyt, Knoelles, and Dallam and their experiences contributed to the negative perception of Turkish men and women in Europe and English political agenda. I also explain how travel narratives improved the reception of Turkish identity in both medieval and sixteenth century political discourse and agenda. Then, I will compare William Shakespeare’s Othello and its characters to Ottoman culture and the harem context.


Quan Gan, University of Texas, Austin: The Strategies and Logics of Modifying Ancestral Memory in Early Capetian France and Wuyue-Song

 This study compares the strategies and logics of modifying ancestral memory in early Capetian France (the 980s to the 1040s) and Wuyue, a tenth-century kingdom in Southeast China. The two royal ancestors in comparison, Robert I (d. 923) and Qian Liu (d. 932) had much in common. Both were military leaders ascending the social ladder through their service and ritual connection to the kings and both eventually appropriated royal symbols for their regional power. Also, there was competition over their historical memories after the turbulent tenth century in both areas. Putting a matter of regional history into a comparative and even global analytical framework differentiates the ‘logics’ from the ‘strategies’ of modifying historical memories. The former is informed by long-term ritual and cultural patterns, but the latter concerns the concrete and contingent choices, engendered and limited by the former.

This comparison highlights two such ‘logics’: First, the relationship between ancestral ritual and political legitimacy had been normalized in Wuyue. As a result, the strategy adopted by Ralf Glaber and Odorann of Sens, namely omitting the royal ancestor, was not an option in China. Second, cultic sites had a more autonomous position in early Capetian rule than in early Song (960–1279), the conqueror of Wuyue. Thus, the competing depictions of Robert I were closely associated with the locations of the authors’ religious houses, while those concerning Qian Liu, all produced in the capital, related to the authors’ educational or political affiliations. 

Daniela D’Eugenio, University or Arkansas: Transnational Examples of Pedagogical Practices of Foreign Languages in the Sixteenth Century

The sixteenth-century language manuals of Juan Luis Vives, Orazio Toscanella, Claudius Hollyband, and John Florio show the relevance of universally accepted pedagogical practices, which transcend local and cultural contexts. These authors come from different backgrounds and write in different languages and with different purposes. Nevertheless, they adopt similar immersive dialogical strategies, with the goal of promoting the study of a foreign language. Translation in two or multiple languages appears to be a common trait in these manuals, and in others in which Hebrew may be included as well. Whether literal or a free rendering of the content, such translations aim to expose learners to interlinguistic comparisons and metalinguistic analyses. Additionally, many chapters in the manuals of the four aforementioned authors teach practical phrases for interaction among different social groups, thus immersing students in actual conversational situations. Consequently, one of their pedagogical tools is memorizing the use of idiomatic and proverbial phrases. The presence of such expressions allows exposure not only to linguistic content but also to cultural aspects, which are useful for offering a concrete vision of the target language. Given their universal characterization, proverbs determine a shared and common space in which language and culture can be promoted beyond specific contextual aspects in a transnational perspective. From Vives’s humanist approach to Florio’s Elizabethan perspective, these teachers offer high-impact practices distinguishing their works from those grammars of Latin that derived from the classical tradition. As such, they borrow the linguistic and cultural material already available and adapt it to their own pedagogical objectives while simultaneously creating a community of teachers and teaching practices beyond specific borders.


Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska: Global Catastrophe: Giants, Monsters, and the Medieval Breaching of the Great Barrier

Medieval Arab travelers told of a great barrier of mountains and fortifications separating the civilized world from lands of savagery associated with the tribes of Gog and Magog. Endlessly chipping away at the barrier, the peoples of Gog and Magog were expected to eventually be able to break through it. The end of the world would occur when the barrier was breached and the monsters and giants poured into the lands of humans, killing everyone and devouring and devastating everything. Though based on a different cosmology and cultural geography, medieval Scandinavian myths, as told in the Völuspá and Gylfaginning, make reference to realms of monsters and giants, such as Jötunheimr, harboring creatures destined to break free and destroy the world of humans (Midgard) and also that of the gods (Asgard). In those narratives, even the god Odin is destined to perish. Beowulf itself, with its dragon and its giants, Grendel and Grendel’s mother, as well as its apocalyptic ending in the death of the hero, and the expected destruction of his people, appears to be a version of those tales. Though his narrative is more optimistic regarding an eventual universal salvation, Dante also speaks of a great barrier, the Wall of Dis, separating the upper and lower areas of hell. At the deepest level, giants surround the winged Lucifer, who is entrapped in a lake of ice. Veiled references to the earthquake at the time of Christ’s crucifixion, crumbling cliff sides and bridges, and allusions to the Second Coming offer a disquieting picture of what, according to Dante, can be expected at the time of the Apocalypse.

This essay proposes that the peculiar imagery and perceptions of certain medieval eschatological narratives have much value as insights into historical and prehistorical realities, and their projection into the future, and that they describe a process of human violence and brutal exploitation and devastation of the world, its creatures and its resources. In addition to their representation of material realities and events, monstrous figures are cognitive devices pointing to the relations of self and other, including how the self defines itself in opposition to the other, and what the self does not know about itself, or the other. The Great Barrier in that sense is a cognitive one, a series of seals that keep a threatening reality at bay, but only temporarily. Apocalypse after all is revelation, the breaking of those seals and the crumbling down of the barrier. What the future can be expected to reveal, then, is what we have known all along about our role in the devastation of the planet, and in our own self-destruction. When the barrier collapses, however, full knowledge will also be realized, especially self-knowledge, bringing with it hope that another world could rise out of the ruins of the one we lost.

Nina Gonzalbez, Florida State University: Don Lope Fernández de Luna’s International Style at the Parroquieta of La Seo

The fourteenth-century capilla de San Miguel, popularly known as the parroquieta, was built in Zaragoza, Spain, as the funerary chapel of the Archbishop of Zaragoza, Lope Fernández de Luna (r. 1351–1382). Art and architectural historians describe the chapel as a mudéjar structure, or a Christian structure with Islamic design elements. This categorization is reinforced through UNESCO’s World Heritage List and its inclusion of the parroquieta in the entry for mudéjar architecture of Aragón. UNESCO’s description of mudéjar as “the only style unique to Spain” encumbers the term with elements of national identity that underplay the global features of late medieval Iberian architecture. The chapel’s patron, a member of a powerful noble family in Aragón, traveled extensively as a trusted advisor to King Pedro IV of Aragón (r. 1336–1387). The monument should more accurately be read as a combination of artistic forms incorporating elements from the local Aragónese Gothic, pre-Christian Aragónese Islamic architecture, pre-Christian and Christian Andalusia (specifically Sevillian), Italian, and Castilian traditions. Luna’s funerary chapel is best understood as a structure that affirms the archbishop’s cosmopolitanism and celebrates his career as an international diplomat, and not as a comment on interfaith relations in medieval Iberia, as the mudéjar designation often implies.


Abel Lorenzo-Rodríguez, University of Santiago de Compostela: Scalping, Burning, Hanging, and Misunderstood Punishments from Baghdad to Oviedo (Eighth to Twelfth Centuries)

This study focuses on how some punishments travel along societies in Late Antiquity and Early Medieval Asia and Europe. First stages of Muslim expansion transformed a great part of political landscape in Near East but also in Western Europe. With deep religious changes arrived also a new configuration of law and punishment. However, in some circumstances the identity of new punishments was mixed with regional and local traditions, syncretizing it as result. In this way the article probes how scalping (also known as decalvatio in Latin), burning (dead or alive, ante or post-mortem) and crucifixion shaped part of religious and political dissension between Christians, Muslims, and Jews from Eastern societies to Latin Christian clerics arguing and promoting one or another legitimation. For example, some Muslim philosophers and travelers defended that apostle Peter was bold because he had been scalped before execution, building in this sense a Muslim-Christian polemic about old penal heritage. For Christians, crucifixion became after fourth century a penal taboo, but in Iberia co-existed very near a frequent use of this execution in Al-Andalus (and many others Islamic dominions) while in the north of Iberia appears just in very rare references. Decalvatio or Scalping seem to endure during this time in Islamic and Christian societies; burning was considered an execution to perform alive while in Muslim societies it was linked against corpses; crucifixion was frequently used in Islam but in western Europe hanging (crucifixion equivalent) was slower in his hegemony. So, the main question is: how was punishment and its legacy in early western and near eastern societies a good point to promote religious and social misunderstanding about cruelty and cultural exchange?

William Mahan, Stillwater, OK, Oklahoma State University: Going Rogue Across the Globe: International Vagrants from Medieval Europe, Asia and the Middle East

In European medieval literature, there is a plethora of well-known rogue travelers. These vagrants, pucks, and picaros felt too confined by the laws of their lands, and some traveled far and wide to enjoy a more flexible lifestyle. Lesser-known are the counterparts of these characters who traveled from Asia and the Middle East. Upon close examination, many literary and historical figures from these regions share the properties of the European bandit and prankster. Like Till Eulenspiegel, the Arabian Banū Sāsān (pl.) were tricksters, thieves, and vagabonds, but also poets who made it to the far reaches of the Abbasid caliphate (from Spain and Morocco to present-day Uzbekistan), Africa, the Mediterranean islands, and even continental Europe and India. Likewise, there were several noteworthy ‘Chinese’ explorers (often Muslims, who were cultural outlaws, or conscribed Mongolian marauders) in the medieval period. Fang Chengda was a poet and traveler during the Song Dynasty after a life as a youth in poverty. While travel literature was popular in the Song Dynasty, it was condemned during the xenophobic Ming dynasty. Zeng He, born Ma He to a Muslim family, was an orphaned youth who was captured, castrated, and conscribed into the Ming army in 1381. He then traveled through India and Eastern Africa to West Africa. Song Jian, though less cosmopolitan than these explorers, led a group of Chinese bandits who marauded many provinces across the empire in the twelfth century, and he is known as the Chinese Robin Hood. Such bandits also pursued Zoroastrian merchants along the Silk Road.

The punishments for vagrants who refused to follow the law were often severe, but this did not stop individuals, groups, and entire communities from living as outlaws. Forests and other secluded spaces offered refuge for bandits and others, perhaps most famously Robin of the Wood. Itinerancy was preferred by many rogues because it made it difficult for authorities to coordinate their capture. From time to time, even noble knights enjoyed the lawlessness of âventuré, forgetting their virtue and religious dictates when it was most convenient. The allure of the rogue as a “hero” of the people has stood the test of time, and, as this study argues, this figure gained popular appeal in various societies around the world in the medieval and early modern periods. This study will compare international bandits of Middle High German and other European tales to those of Persian/Arabian and Asian tales and history, considering ranges of travel, lifestyles, and lawlessness.

Doaa Omran, University of New Mexico: The Journey of Ghazal East and West

The Ghazal (love lyric) has evolved in the Near East and spread from the Cosmopolitan al-Andalus to other parts of Europe. Arabs in the Arabian Peninsula wrote in the Ghazal genre as early as the sixth century. I explore here how the medieval love lyric has traveled from Arabia to other parts of the global Middle Ages. Ibn Hazem’s (994 –1064) the Necklace and the Dove is a book about the different modes of love that is said to have influenced and was influenced by love poems in Andalusia. That explains why Andalusian love songs circulated in Arabic, Hebrew, and Spanish in al-Andalus. The Troubadours are known to have transferred these songs to the rest of Europe and contributed to the evolution of the love poem across Europe such as Spain, France, and Italy. The Ghazal poems also traveled more eastwards to India and were written in Urdu by contemporary medieval poets such as Shamsuddin Waliullah. Making connections between Urdu and Troubadour Ghazal poems is an unprecedented attempt that I am going to explore in this paper. This survey also focuses on how the medieval ages were involved in exchanging the Arabic genre East and West.

Daniel F. Pigg, The University of Tennessee at Martin: Chaucer Imagines the East: The Squire’s Tale Struggle Toward Understanding

Chaucer was once envisioned as the “Father of English Literature,” but more recently has been considered a “European author.” His sensibilities are clearly cosmopolitan. The shift is intentional as we reimagine a significant poet of England outside his immediate geographical context. The question that next arises is what do we do with Chaucer’s references to the East?  We find these in references to the edge of the European world ending in India, in the Monk’s Tale, some of the setting for the Man of Law’s Tale in Syria, or his most obvious example in The Squire’s Tale that is unfinished. His travels in Europe would certainly have taken him to the edges of European society and perhaps introduced him to the Eastern Other. He was involved with trade and commerce, perhaps the Silk Road. Several of Chaucer’s tales appear to be unfinished because they are interrupted by another pilgrim on the way to Canterbury. Does the Franklin really interrupt the Squire? In terms of narrative form, The Squire’s Tale is probably one of the greatest disappointments because there are so many ways that the narrative might develop that are simply abandoned, at times through a humility topos, but at other times because the Squire seems to be straining for a way forward. Near the end of his tale, he provides what might be taken as a list of narrative thread possibilities he intends to pursue. One might say that Chaucer is exploring the possibility of having someone tell a story who really does not know how to do it! The Squire’s Tale both beckons and baffles readers.
    What Chaucer has actually done in The Squire’s Tale is to present the world of the East, particularly the kingdom of Genghis Khan, as one of luxuriance, iconographic display, symbol, and pageantry. How much Chaucer knew about the East has been a matter of speculation, even his awareness of texts such as those of Marco Polo, comparisons with Mandeville’s Travels or perhaps some of the plots of the Arabian Nights, not yet available in English translation. Sometimes noted for its western Orientalism and its building an East out of comparisons or allusions to the West, The Squire’s Tale is an attempt to represent the exotic, but one where the power of the East manages a level of coherence. In a real way, the cultural western comparisons show that Chaucer’s imagining of the East is not bound or circumscribed. It is something beyond—something beyond description, rhetoric, coherent and finished plots. The East lives in mirrors, rings, flying horses, and swords. These become motors of the mind of the court of Genghis Khan and for Canacee in particular. Rather than a failed narrative, The Squire’s Tale is Chaucer’s exploration into that which cannot be contained, maybe even described. 


Karen Pinto, Visiting Scholar, Religious Studies, University of Colorado-Boulder: Emergence of Medieval Islamicate Cartographic Imaginaries: Pre-Modern Influences from China to Africa, Europe, and Indigenous Cultures

The Islamicate “Routes and Realms” manuscript tradition dating back to the ninth century are the earliest known carto-geographic atlases. These detailed geographical texts of the far-flung medieval Islamic empire accompanied by stylized maps of the world and twenty provinces depict the world from the edges of China to Spain past the littorals of North Africa, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and the Iranian Provinces including Sindh (in present-day southern Pakistan) up to the Caspian and Aral seas. The unusual set of 21 maps that accompany the geographical texts of the “Routes and Realms” tradition are stylized to the max and composed of a series of geometrical forms of circles, squares, triangles, and other unusual forms. Where did this vision of the world come from? This paper will explore what remains of pre-Islamic maps from Roman, Chinese, African, medieval European, and Indigenous traditions to explain the fons et origio of the Islamicate mapping tradition and how the Muslims built on some of the earliest known mapping traditions systematically to map their expansive empire. By the later Middle Ages, during episodes of cross-cultural exchange, such as the crusades, Islamicate maps stimulated the development of new early modern cartographic traditions across the Mediterranean and beyond.


Christian Blake Pye, University of Texas, Austin: Ibn ‘Arabi’s “Realization”: a Revolutionary Interpretive Method in Global Early Modern Islamicate Civilization

From the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, the Andalusi Sufi Ibn ‘Arabi’s (d. 1240) mystical method of tahqiq (“realization”) took hold of the intellectual and political spheres of Islamic civilization from Egypt to South and Central Asia as the premiere way to derive God’s Divine Truth – viewed as standing independent from any one religious tradition – from scripture, self, and creation. Stemming in part from his unique cosmology in which God continuously discloses Himself to humankind through all created existents, Ibn ‘Arabi originally conceived of tahqiq as a politically inert method for realizing human potential through mystical unveiling of God’s perfections.
         But in the centuries following Ibn ‘Arabi’s death, tahqiq spread from the written word to Sufi brotherhoods and finally to intellectuals who helped shape imperial policy.
         This study traces tahqiq from its roots in Mediterranean Helleno-Arabic philosophy to its eventual adaptation by the Turco-Mongol Mughal Empire of Jalal al-Din Akbar (r. 1556 – 1605), in which tahqiq opened the possibility of Divine Truth existing apart from any one particular religion which might claim exclusive access to that truth. It will demonstrate how a nascent world empire selected from and expanded upon Sufi philosophy to suit its aims of universalization and globalization.


David Tomíček, Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic: Old and New – Exotic Medicines in the Czech-Language Sources of the Sixteenth Century

Medicines from faraway lands were part of European medicine throughout the centuries. In fact, they were part of a market that was kind of global since ancient times. The knowledge of these substances was brought into the Bohemian kingdom with the Latin medical writings during the Middle Ages. Among them were not only spices and medicinal herbs, but also body parts of animals or excrements and concretions of their digestive tract. An example of the latter is a bezoar, whose effects against poisons were described in a short Latin treatise dedicated to Bohemian king John of Luxemburg (1296–1346). Awareness of exotic substances and their countries of origin increased during the sixteenth century, when Czech translations of The Cosmographia of Sebastian Münster (1488–1552) and the work on medical botany of Pietro Anrea Mattioli (1501–1577) were published. Although reports of the natural substances even from the New World reached the inhabitants of the Bohemian Kingdom during this period, most exotic medicines were still associated with the countries of Asia and Africa. The aim of my paper is to analyze the references to these medicines in Czech-Language sources, especially medical ones. I am interested in the ways in which they have been used for specific health ailments, in their differences from the domestic medical stuff, and the cultural peculiarities associated with their countries of origin.



Warren Tormey, English Department, Middle Tennessee State University:

Presentation Title: “Swords and Armor as ‘Global’ Medieval Icons”


In their storied historical associations and in their symbolic connections to mythic figures in distant lands from centuries past, swords and armor offer a means to discern how items of cultural significance pass through cultural and geographical boundaries and become artifacts that reflect a pre-modern “global” trade practices. Historians have long celebrated weapons and armor as fitting symbols of trans-cultural interaction across the centuries, noting, for example, how the sword served as a symbol in the political maneuvering between church and crown and became of the hallmarks of the crusading rhetoric. Moreover, the manufacture of the sword itself frequently involved a division of labor of sorts, as contributions from a variety of craftsmen of different nationalities: Rhenish blades, for example, were frequently affixed to Viking or English hilts and scabbards, and an improvement resulting in a higher quality blade would be a closely kept trade secret. Specialized and mythic weapon smiths who fashioned and decorated swords and armor not only created the symbols so crucial to the constructions of masculine identity, social stature, and ethnic affiliation but also captured the “global aspects” associated with medieval weapons and armor. This essay seeks not only to consider the “global” qualities of the sword as captured in traditional works like Beowulf, where the Germanic and Scandinavian mythic smith Weland enters the Anglo-Saxon tradition, or the Song of Roland, where the glorious weapon brandished by the Saracen Emir Baligant also captures cross-cultural traditions. In addition, it will consider how Sir John Hawkwood, the well-traveled and notoriously tenacious English mercenary, serves as a model upon whom Chaucer’s Knight has been based, and the reputations of historical Ulfberht and Ingelrii swords as early medieval global “brands,” which likewise capture the significance of weapons and armor as icons that enable a fuller understanding of the “global” Middle Ages. 

Thomas Willard, University of Arizona: John Dee and the Origins of the British Empire

John Dee (1529–1609) was the first to speak and write about the British Empire in the English language (and the Imperium Britannica in Latin) in the term’s modern sense: the British Isles and affiliated countries around the world. Written examples can be dated to the year 1577 when he published a book with a plan for a “Navy Royall” of state-owned warships and wrote the first in a series of private reports and maps of historic and geographical relations with lands between England and its long-desired trading site in Cathay (China).

This paper will introduce the man whom Queen Elizabeth I called her “intelligencer” or “eyes” on his travels throughout Western Europe. Dee was a polymath, a student of languages and histories and especially of mathematics at a time when mathematical precision became essential not only to astronomy and astrology but also to the making of maps and navigational instruments along with the teaching of their use. Virgil had written of “Britain completely cut off from the world.” Shakespeare, writing about the Britain of Chaucer’s day, called it “a fortress built by nature for herself / Against infection and the hand of war.” But in the Elizabethan Age, when Protestantism and Catholicism were engaged in a continental struggle while England was in a race for possessions in the New World, Britain’s survival as an independent political entity required global thinking.

As a patriotic Protestant, Dee tutored Elizabeth and important advisors of hers like Sir Philip Sidney as well as explorers and merchant companies in search of a Northeast or Northwest Passage to the Orient. He urged Englishmen to learn techniques of geometry, mathematics, architecture from the ancient Romans, from whom they considered themselves to have descended. He promoted the study of mathematics and its applications. Above all, he urged Englishmen to think globally.