MUSULMANES, ESPAÑOLES Y JUDÍOS EN LOS TEXTOS PRE-MODERNOS EN LENGUA INGLESA:
LA CONSTRUCCIÓN DEL "OTRO"
Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
Proyecto de investigación del Programa Nacional de Investigación Fundamental
VI Plan Nacional de Investigación Científica, Desarrollo e Innovación Tecnológica I+D+I 2008-2011
MUSLIMS, SPANIARDS AND JEWS IN EARLY MODERN ENGLISH TEXTS:
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE "OTHER"
Research Project supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation
National Plan for Scientific Research I+D+I
The present project had its origin in a previous and preliminary one, already underway, titled "La representación del Islam en la Inglaterra pre-moderna: Musulmanes, conversos y renegados en los textos ingleses pre-modernos" ["The Representation of Islam in Early Modern England: Muslims, Conversos and Renegades in Early Modern English Texts"], which was passed by the University of Jaén in 2008.
The objectives of this current project could be summarized as the attempt to determine if and to what extent the process of construction of Early Modern English identity was related to the textual production of a Jewish, Muslim and/or Spanish Other.
There are numerous written and published works in the early Modern English period which bear Muslim, Spanish or Jewish themes, plots and characters. A mere initial list of plays which touch on the theme of the Muslim -Turk or North African-, the Spaniard or that of the Jew should include, among others: Tamburlaine, parts I and II (1587 y 1588), The Jew of Malta (1589-90), by Christopher Marlowe; The Battle of Alcazar (1588) and Soliman and Perseda (1590) by George Peele; Alphonsus, King of Aragon (1588), Orlando Furioso (1589/1594?) and Selimus, Emperor of the Turks (1594) by Robert Greene; Lust's Dominion (1600), by Thomas Dekker; The Fair Maid of the West, parts I and II (1603 and 1630) (and to a lesser extent If You Know not Me You Know Nobody, part II) by Thomas Heywood; Othello (1604), Titus Andronicus (ca.1592) and The Merchant of Venice (ca.1598) by William Shakespeare; Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's, All's Lost by Lust (1620) and The Changeling (1622); or Philip Massinger's The Renegado (1623). Although the majority of these plays have an Ottoman, Spanish and/or Jewish theme, some authors (namely, Heywood, Dekker and Rowley) show special interest in the North African Islamic world (significantly All's Lost by Lust and Lust's Dominion contextualise the Islamic question in the Iberian Peninsula from 711 to 1492).
An in-depth study on the different literary and ideological discourses in circulation at the end of the XVth century and up to the middle of the XVIIth century in England, should show the complexity involved in this form of narrating otherness. Indeed, this complexity arises from the evident material specificness of different discourses involved in the construction of the Jewish Other: from drama to emblems, from political discourses to pamphlets or travel accounts. However, beyond that, this complexity has much to do with protean features which characterise this identity category: there is not one, but multiple identities which we could name ‘Jewish’, and although they are all biblical in origin (albeit somewhat ambiguous), they multiply as they become related to different aspects of the forming of a modern national English identity: Jewishness and economic discourse (usury, money lending); Jewishness and sexuality (circumcision related to castration); Jewishness and the female (the ‘menstruation’ of male Jews); Jewishness and non-Christianness (biblical condemnation); Jewishness and non- Europeaness (through the stigma of a wandering people); Jewishness and non-Englishness (i.e., the case of Dr Roderico Lopez, 1594).
Significantly, in the construction process of what has come to be called Englishness (meaning, what is specifically English),one observes in the different discourses (either literary or non-literary) of the period some complex aspects which come to relate in different ways Jewishness with Africaness (through their otherness), Jewishness with Spanishness and Portugueseness (through the topos of Jewish Spain and the Sephardic communities in London), and Jewishness and Muslimness (through their relatively common ethnic and cultural origin). The Spanish purging statutes are what finally and inexorably point to the biological mark which characterises Jewishness far beyond theology or even ethnicity; faced with this characterisation, conversion implies the introduction of doubt and the possibility of being tricked, as well as subversion within what are considered the truths of Christianity.
At the end of this process, one understands that the imaginary collective construction which we would use to name ‘England' could only be comprehended in its entirety during this period (and mainly after) if we are able to determine the degree of confrontation (meaning the strategies of rejection, incorporation and exclusion) established with other collectives and specifically with Islam and with Judaism, due to their relevance in the Early Modern period. Indeed, one can only understand the final result, the ‘England' which emerged at the end of the XVIIth century, if we are able to determine correctly the participation of all these types of texts in such mechanisms and identity processes; and contrarily, we will only understand the texts (of drama, of emblems, and of travel books and pamphlets), if we comprehend, together with their esthetic and social function, this ideological process.