Brown Bag Lunch: Cynthia Robinson, “Nasrid Visual Culture: Metaphor, Symbol, and Illumination”

MadrasaYusufiyya1Cynthia Robinson [History of Art] will discuss Nasrid visual culture at noon this Wednesday, April 13, in White Hall room B04.

In scholarship of the past few decades, symbol and metaphor, as couched in poetry, rhymed prose and sacred texts, have been shown to provide productive lenses through which to reconstruct the phenomenology of viewers’ experiences of numerous medieval Islamic built environments. Her own previous work includes deep exploration of these themes in both fitna/Taifa (11th-century) and Almoravid (late 11th-early 12th century) contexts. Her present project brings these concerns into the Naṣrid and post-Naṣrid contexts of Granada, where metaphor’s task might be said to have morphed from one of transformation to one of embodiment, of assisting audiences in comprehending the “true” nature and essence of what they see. This paper will focus on two key case studies: the first, a lighting display confected from the (only, and quite lavish) celebration of the mawlid orchestrated by Muḥammad V in December of 1362, within the precincts of the Alhambra; the second, an inscription containing the famous “Light Verse” known to have formed part of the program of ornament commissioned for Granada’s Madrasa Yūsufiyya in the 1340s. Neither object of investigation survives physically—texts provide our only windows onto them, and will serve as our point of departure for their reconstruction and interpretation.