Gregory S. Hutcheson andJosiah Blackmore
What though Iberia yieldyou liberty
To snort in source ofSodom villainy?
- John Marston
Ever since the Romans named Iberia's western reaches "Extremadura" -
the extreme territories - it has lain on the margins of Europe's conscious-
ness, always the site ofdifference, always"queer" Iberia.} Here it is that the
Romans located the necplus ultra, beyond which there was nothingness, or
worse, every conceivable monster of the imagination. For the Europe of
the Chanson de Roland, Iberia was the land of the Saracens, a lusty, black-
skinned people that brought the darkness of Africa dangerously close; so
too the temptations of the soul's darker side. It was the land of literary
modes that turned men away from their innate masculine virtue; ofsciences
that upset the balance of the trivium and quadrivium; of heterodoxies that
struck at the very heart of Christian theology.
Iberia represents throughout the Middle Ages Christian Europe's point
ofcontact with a cultural other that was iplmense and frightening, as much
a product of the imagination as the leviathans navigating the margins of
medieval maps. It represents as well the space of unnatural sexualities-
"sodomy" in its broad understanding as both aberrance and excess, that
which goes against and beyond nature and God's divine plan.2 Roland's
Saracens are implicitly defined by a sexuality that exceeds the bounds of a
Christian normativity, one that subverts the teleology ofsex and emblema-
tizes the shadow side of European culture. Indeed, in Christian accounts
of Muslim Iberia, sexual excess seems inevitably to cross with cultural (or
racial) otherness, and at times becomes its unique mode of expression. The
eleventh-century Grimaldus, monk at the great monastery of Silos, would
report with regard for neither empirical evidence nor linguistic specificity
that the Saracens consecrated the sixth day of the week to that "shameless
whore" Venus (hence viernes), and that "on this day the whole black Ish-
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