Ryan Szpiech

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Associate Professor of Spanish

Office Location(s): 4140 MLB 1275
Phone: 734.647.2334
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  • About

    I study the cultures and literatures of medieval Iberia, focusing especially on cultural interaction, exchange, and conflict. My interests converge around the concept of translation (of languages, alphabets, styles, beliefs, identities, and ideas) as a tool for defining the relations between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. I am particularly interested in conversion as a vehicle for exchange (real and imagined) between disparate groups, as well as in modern scholarly debates about how to frame the history and criticism of Medieval Iberia and its cultures (One, two, or three cultures? Conquest or reconquest? Spanish or Iberian? Tolerance or persecution?). I focus much of my research on polemics (disputes and arguments) between different religious groups, and I have dedicated numerous publications to the fourteenth-century convert Abner of Burgos (known as Alfonso of Valladolid after conversion). 

    I am the author of a book on narratives of religious conversion and their function within polemical writing in the 12th to the 15th centuries and the editor of a book on medieval exegesis and cross-cultural contact and polemics. I am now working on a number of smaller projects on the Pugio fidei (Dagger of Faith) of the Dominican polemicist Ramon Martí and the polemics against Islam in sixteenth-century Spain. I am also at the beginning stages of a monograph on the intersection of translation and discourses of genealogy and filial piety in Castile during the reign of Alfonso X the Learned and the subsequent four kings (1252–1369). I am currently co-editing two critical editions: one of the Pugio fidei (with Geörg Hasselhoff), and one of the Confutación del alcorán y secta mahometana, by Lope de Obregón.

    From 2012–2015, I am participating in a group research project organized and led by Dr. Javier del Barco at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas studying late medieval Sephardic manuscripts. Our project, entitled, “Legado de Sefarad: La producción material e intellectual del judaísmo sefardí bajomedieval” is supported by a grant (#FFI2012–38451) from Spain's 6th National Research, Development, and Technological Innovation Plan (VI Plan Nacional de Investigación Científica, Desarrollo e Innovación Tecnológica, or “Plan National de I+D+i”). From 2008–2012, I also participated in a group research project organized and led by Dr. Esperanza Alfonso at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas studying the role of the Bible in late medieval Sephardic culture. Our project, entitled, "The Intellectual and Material Legacies of Late-Medieval Sephardic Judaism: An Interdisciplinary Approach," was supported by a four-year Starting Grant from the European Research Council, awarded to Dr. Alfonso. For more information on the project, see http://www.lineas.cchs.csic.es/inteleg/content/presentaci%C3%B3n.

    Selected Publications:
    Books and Journal Issues

    Selected Articles and Chapters
    • “Cracking the Code: Reflections on Manuscripts in the Age of Digital Books.” Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures 3.1 (2014): 76–301. 
    • “The Aura of an Alphabet: Gospel Citations in Hebrew in the Pugio Fidei of Ramón Martí.” Numen: International Review for the History of Religions 61, no. 4 (2014): 334–63.
    • “‘Petrus Alfonsi…Erred Greatly’: Alfonso of Valladolid's (d. ca. 1347) Imitation and Critique of Petrus Alfonsi's Dialogus.” In Petrus Alfonsi and his Dialogus: Background, Context, Reception, edited by Carmen Cardelle de Hartmann and Philipp Roelli, 321–48. Micrologus’ Library 66. Florence: Sismel Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2014. 
    • “La disputa de Barcelona como punto de inflexión.” Studia Lulliana 54 (2014): 3–32.
    • “Rhetorical Muslims: Islam as Witness in Christian Anti-Jewish Polemic.” Al-Qantara: Revista de Estudios Árabes 34.1 (2013): 153–185.
    • “The Convivencia Wars: Decoding Historiography’s Polemic with Philology.” In A Sea of Languages: Literature and Culture in the Pre-modern Mediterranean. Ed. Susan Akbari and Karla Malette. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.
    • “Preaching Paul to the Moriscos in the Confusión o confutación de la secta Mahomética y del Alcorán (1515) by Juan Andrés.” La Corónica 41.1 (2012).
    • “Latin as a Language of Authoritative Tradition.” Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature.Ed. Ralph Hexter and David Townsend. Oxford University Press. 63–85.
    • “Citas árabes en caracteres hebreos en el Pugio fidei del dominico Ramón Martí: entre la autenticidad y la autoridad.” [Includes study and critical edition of the Arabic and Latin texts followed by a Castilian translation of both.] Al-Qantara: Revista de Estudios Árabes 32.1 (2011): 71–107. http://al-qantara.revistas.csic.es/index.php/al-qantara/article/view/250/244
    • “In Search of Ibn Sina’s ‘Oriental Philosophy’ in Medieval Castile.” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 20 (2010): 185-206. A PDF of the text is available.

    Recent graduate courses taught:

    Translation and Anxiety
    Narrating Conversion in the Medieval Mediterranean
    This Text which is not One: Five Ways of Reading the Libro de buen amor

    Recent undergraduate courses taught:

    The cultural world of Alfonso X
    From the Cid to Cide Hamete: Representations of Muslims in Medieval and Early-Modern Iberian Literatures
    Introduction to Aljamiado writing
    Medieval Frame-Tale Narratives
    Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Medieval Iberia
    Conversion and Conversos in Fifteenth-Century Iberian Literature
    Castilian Chivalry and the Libro del Caballero Zifar
    The Literatures of Iberia 900-1700
    Originals, Copies, and Translations

  • Education
    • Ph.D. Yale University, 2006
  • Research Areas of Interest
    • Medieval Iberian Literatures, Converso Studies, Medieval Islam, Religious Polemics