chapter  2
39 Pages

The Myth of the Myth of the Andalusian Paradise

The Extreme Right and the American Revision of the History and Historiography of Medieval Spain 1
WithS.J. Pearce

Since Washington Irving’s embassy to Spain (1826–1829) and his subsequent publication of stories and essays collected under the title Tales of the Alhambra, American readers, artists and politicians have imagined and drawn inspiration from the medieval period of Spain’s history—before Spain was Spain, as such. Anglophone fascination has continued through the contemporary period, often standing as a proxy for domestic issues, even in the United States, a country with no medieval past of its own and a fraught contemporary relationship with both Spanish and Arabic, the modern languages that are the heirs to the languages of culture and state in Spain’s Middle Ages. As the peoples and places of medieval Spain enter the Anglophone political discourse, the extreme right has seized upon the dystopian vision in order to assail the scientific study of history and promote a presentist, anti-intellectual agenda that uses medieval history to promote its ideals for the modern world. One recent contribution to the popular debates on the nature of interfaith conflict and coexistence in medieval Spain and its utility in contemporary political discourse is Darío Fernández-Morera’s The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise, which this chapter analyses.