New publications by our faculty

The palatial complex of the Alhambra, built in the 13th and 14th centuries by the Arab rulers of Granada, has received little attention in the centuries following the Reconquista. The Spaniards were the first to “rediscover” it in the 18th century, while a steady flow of foreign visitors turned it into one of the major touristic destinations of the 19th century. Many have left precious evidence of their passage: texts, photographs, and, most of all, commentaries left in the visitors’ book of the Alhambra, kept since 1829. The author has used this fascinating document to propose a novel vision of the Alhambra and of its meaning during this period.

From Chateaubriand to Owen Jones and from Washington Irving to Jean-Léon Gérôme, Westerners have constructed an image of Andalusia tainted with romanticism and orientalism. Yet behind this Western infatuation with the site lie scores of “Oriental” observers of the monument: a great number of silent visitors from the Maghreb; Ottoman diplomats and travelers, sometimes even more orientalist than Europeans; Arabs from the Mashreq, growingly influenced by Arab nationalism, as promoted by the “Arab Renaissance” of the Nahda.

Based on these crisscrossing views revealed by the visitors’ book, the contemporary press, memoirs, and travelogues, the author proposes a cultural history of relations between East and West, North and South, Islam and Christianity, center and periphery.