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Captivity, Confinement and Resistance in Mudéjar and Morisco Literature


In early modern Spain, the Crown forces its subject minority Muslim population, the Mudejars, to convert to Catholicism (1501-1526) thus giving birth to the Moriscos. Alongside the forced conversions would come strict restrictions on Morisco cultural practice making even the use of Arabic language illegal. Therefore, an underground literature whose roots lie in hispanophone Mudejar Islam emerges defiant in the Morisco context for its Arabic script yet Spanish content. This hybrid literature known as Aljamiado inversely reflects a Morisco reality of Christian appearances on the surface yet Muslim loyalties within and accordingly aids the Moriscos in their struggle to survive as faithful Muslims in an increasingly hostile environment.

This study undertakes a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating literary, historic and theoretical methods to explore Aljamiado literature as read by Mudejars and Moriscos alike as well as the subsequent influence of the Morisco experience on some of the greatest works of modern Spanish literature. As such, key Aljamiado texts including El poema de Yusuf, La leyenda de la doncella Carcayona, El breviario sunni and La tafsira, are considered for revealing the common themes of captivity, confinement, and above all resistance that characterized the Morisco condition for innovating creative strategies to maintain Islam relevant. Moreover, representations of the Morisco in popular culture such as the comedias of Amar después de la muerte and El Hamete de Toledo function as case studies of the ¨Morisco predicament¨ increasingly portrayed as the "other," further revealing the applicability of DuBois' theory of "double consciousness" to the Moriscos. Once expelled from Spain in the early 17th century, however, the Moriscos' memory endures in the works of Cervantes' Don Quijote de la Mancha as well as the comedy Los moriscos de Hornachos analysed here for their contrasting reactions towards the decision to expel Spain´s Morisco minority.

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