IV Congreso Internacional
Historia a Debate
Santiago de Compostela, 15-19 de diciembre de 2010
Apartado II. 6. Historiografía y contextos políticos
This paper will operate on the premise that experimental narrative forms should prove productive for medieval historians rethinking the relationship between past and present, between historian and subject, and the ethical dimensions of historiography. Despite an efflorescence of experimental narrative in the last twenty years, medieval historians in this field have not yet taken on board the more radical narrative possibilities suggested by scholars such as Chris Ward, Jonathan Walker, and Marjorie Becker -- all rejecting linearity, injecting the personal, and engaging with the imaginative dimension of historical writing -- or by experimental historians outside the academy, such as Sven Lindqvist. The paper will, in fact, share with Lindqvist’s work a number of elements a mobile narrator; radical fragmentation; ethical commitment; and the active narrative disorientation of the reader.
The paper will set in dialogue two moments of history—medieval and modern. The modern element of the narrative, around the year 2004 (during the Iraq war, shortly after the train bombings in Madrid) is both real and imagined. The medieval moment is that which is conventionally envisaged as the decisive phase of the conquest of southern Iberia the decades that follow the capture of Córdoba and Sevilla by Fernando III. This phase will be envisioned as a moment of deep uncertainty and unpredictability elements that invite and incite new narrative forms.
The interaction between these two moments will be framed, in narrative terms, within a brief railway journey between Alcalá de Henares and Madrid, inspired by Howard Zinn’s ethical-political maxim, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, and by the ubiquity of this form of transport in W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, in which the railway is always associated with an agonized premonition of displacement. The (fictional?) historian travelling on this train journey will be searching for María Pérez the figure who is the object of compulsive fascination in the Galician-Portuguese cantigas de escarnho e maldecir.