Actuality of pre- and early modern
My involvement in medieval and early modern studies may appear as unusual, because the main bulk of my works concern the contemporary period. Yet the elements of such a distant cultural past form one of the pillars of my project in Transcultural Humanities. In my working hypothesis, I consider the Middle Ages as the origin of a line of thought that may legitimise and give depth to our contemporary stance. It is in the Middle Ages that the foundation of the transcultural Europe is to be found.
As my working hypothesis, I admit that it is in al-Andalus that we should seek for the origins of the idea of the unity of the Abrahamic tradition. It is obvious that the diverse monotheistic religions originated from the same stem over the span of early, mature, late and very late Antiquity (the idea of considering Islam as a product of the Antiquity that lingers in the desert peripheries of the Mediterranean world is not new). But it was in the Middle Ages that this unity was posed for the first time as a novel, highly controversial intellectual problem (against the divergence founding the very existence of religions as separate symbolic spheres).
With our present, transcultural stance, we are back in the Cordoban context of the first half of the 13th century. Perhaps the truncated story of al-Andalus contributes for our contemporary problems. But there is no use in reflecting on where we would be now if the history had taken a different turn...
Anyway this project implies a return to the peculiarity of western Mediterranean thinkers. The adjectival expression "western Mediterranean" is more than just an accident of speech. The expanse of a sea dictates the basic coordinates, forming a matrix for subsequent processes, such as the (in)communicability of Latin and Greek worlds, and the space of mediation, filled through the Arabic. The stake, the conclusion to which I look forward concerns the consciousness of Europe looking back to its Mediterranean past to see a unity of civilisation. The perspective is to reconsider the West in terms of a "western Mediterranean". This return to the pre-modern presupposes thus a closing of the Atlantic expansion initiated in the 15th century. Only the final exhaustion of a late, very late modernity presupposes such a move. Nonetheless I believe the time has come.
The medievalist work to be done in the Transcultural Humanities project aims at bringing back to light a continuity of a minor, heterodox tradition. If the divergence of orthodoxies breaks the unity, the plurality of mystical heterodoxies may presuppose a return of convergence.
A variety of Andalusian thinkers may be contemplated in this research. Ibn Arabi is evidently a closing key figure, but there is a longer thread of tradition coming from behind. It includes Ibn Bajja and Ibn Tufail, and the Andalusian reflection on social and communitarian condition of man. The origins of the elitist though, distinguishing between the illuminated and the mass of common believers may be translated in terms of coexistence between transculture and cultures.
What I'm equally interested in, is the collapse of the idea of unity, such as it can be observed in Ramon Llull. Ars lulliana, as a universalist tool of discovering and communicating truth, falls short of its own universalism. The project of conversion degenerates into a project of crusade. The personal failure of the Mallorcan thinker is at the same time a failure of Europe that, thence as now, falls short of its own aspiration of universalism.
Another figure in this gallery, a late comer, is the Portuguese Jesuit priest António Vieira. Once again, its all about universalism, yet perhaps a deficient vision of it. Working as a missionary in the Brazilian province of Maranhão, Vieira gained a very deep insight into the cultural difference. In Clavis Profetarum, his monumental work on the history of the missions, he established an interesting vision of a struggle between a supposedly universal symbolic system (Christianity) and the cultured condition of man.
In my original academic context, medieval and early modern studies were considered as a separate specialization, unavailable to someone showing a strong inclination towards the contemporary period. Another unbreakable watershed separated "Romance" and "Oriental" studies. Unfortunately, I believe this situation is not only still in place, but doomed to remain as one of the unchanging schemes of the academic organization. It is an essential drawback for the project and in fact I have repeatedly failed to acquire suitable collaborators for it. The only solution that should be faced is thus its internationalization. On the other hand, investment in all the technical skills, including competence in Latin and Romance languages (such as Catalan), as well as Arabic, is thus among the conditions of success.
For a moment, I've concentrated in refreshing and consolidating these competences. Very little things are ready or published for this part of the project. Yet I hope that the progress, once I enter the matter, might be quick, leading directly into the project's proceedings, without passing through a stage of loose papers for which I hardly see any space.
EROTICISM OF TRACE
If I currently produce such loose papers in medieval and early modern studies, they deal rather with another project, a lesser one, but still very dear to my heart: that of the Eroticism of trace. The core of this book is composed by some chosen moments of the Arabic erotic poetry, starting with Banat Su'ad, associated to some Romance examples, such as the famous sextain Lo ferm voler by Arnaut Daniel.
The question of enlarging the scope of this book is still open. My recent serendipitous proceedings, such as a paper on aporetic eroticism of Ausiàs March or considerations on the figure of Walladah as a poetic and erotic subject of a new type are clearly contributing for this minor study. Yet I suppose at a given moment these two threads of reflection may cross and even cross-pollinate each other, not only at the level of the technical skills.