Summer Abroad Spain - Instructor

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Three Cultures of Medieval Spain

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Robert Blake

Spanish Department

Robert J. Blake (Ph.D. University of Texas) has been professor of Spanish linguistics at UC Davis since 1992. He has published widely in Spanish linguistics and the history of the Spanish language. In 2013, Georgetown University Press published the second edition of his book on technology, Brave New Digital Classroom; in 2016, Georgetown also released his new book on applied Spanish linguistics in 2016. He developed an online first-year and second-year Spanish course now taught as part of the UC’s online offerings. He regularly teaches a summer graduate course on language and technology in Salamanca, Spain, and was a visiting professor at the University of Salamanca in fall, 2013. In 2004, he was named a member of the North American Academic of the Spanish Language, making him a corresponding member of the Royal Spanish Academy. He is also an avid jazz guitarist and doggedly persistent student of the Arabic language.

A Message to Students and Parents

Medieval Spain is one of the most intriguing historical periods precisely because the three ethnic groups—Christian, Jewish, and Muslim—that were forced to live together, for better or worse, for eight centuries (711-1429). As a Spanish linguist, I have been fascinated all my professional life with the enormous contribution of Arabic loanwords firmed ensconced in the Spanish language (around 3,000 words). They include words for the most advanced scientific concepts and material improvements of the day. How did the different sectors of this medieval society work out all of their differences and accommodate these radically different traditions?  Many answers can be found in the historical and architecture sites still preserved today: enchanting cities such as Hervás, Segovia, Toledo, Córdoba, Sevilla, and Granada. We will find old Spanish churches and synagogues built according to Arabic aesthetics, the great mosque at Córdoba with a Christian chapel inserted into the middle of it, and a modern-day Granada feeling more like a part of Morocco along with its Alhambra Palace, one of the wonders of the world. This summer course will examine these questions up close, brick by brick, while also enjoying the synergism of contemporary Spanish culture that these three traditions produced over time. Students will start with background lectures in Salamanca, one of the safest and most revered university towns in Europe and an important anchor of the Christian kingdom during medieval times. Mester Academy will provide tour guides as well as all of the travel and lodging logistics for our stay in Salamanca and the field trips to the south that make up the second part of the course. Transportation, lodging, and food will be pre-arranged from start to finish. Students just need to relax, observe, and absorb the best of Spanish life along with the cultural topics to be explored.