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Professor discusses poetry and art

Tara Scannell | Friday, September 19, 2008

Poetry works as an act of history and is vital to the true understanding of the past, said Maria Rosa Menocal, a Humanities and foreign language professor at Yale University, during her lecture yesterday at Saint Mary’s.

Menocal said poetry and other art forms are critical in attempting to understand the history of medieval Spain, and specifically the how the cultures of Catholics, Jews and Muslims intertwined.

Although much of the history of medieval Spain was lost, historians are able to look at the art – including architecture of the time – to draw conclusions about the Arabic influence on the country.

“[This influence] has been largely forgotten and first and foremost it must be said by the Christians of Spain,” Menocal said.

By looking at Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, Menocal said that the influence of Islamic architecture cannot be forgotten.

“It is the Arabic culture … that profoundly shapes the culture of its Jewish community,” Menocal said.

Menocal’s speech was part of the College’s annual Christian Culture Lecture on the important role of poetry in analyzing history.

“This annual lecture brings to Saint Mary’s a professor of the humanities to discuss some aspect of the Christian division of Western culture”, said Philip Hicks, a professor and Chair of the Humanistic Studies department at Saint Mary’s College. “This interdisciplinary humanities program emphasizes the dynamic role Christianity played in shaping our world.”