World Bulletin/News Desk
María Rosa Menocal, a renowned scholar and historian of medieval culture and literature, passed away on Oct. 15 after a three-year battle with melanoma, Yalenews reported.
Menocal, Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale and former director of the Whitney Humanities Center, focused her research on the literary traditions of the Middle Ages and on the interaction of various religious and cultural groups in medieval Spain.
Her 2002 book, “The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain,” describes the rich cross-fertilization that took place among those religious groups. The book placed the interactions of Jews, Christians and Muslims at the heart of the formation of a diverse and vibrant Western culture, and posed a vigorous challenge to the notion of inevitable polarization of Islam and the West in the popular imagination.
Among her other books is “Shards of Love: Exile and the Origins of the Lyric,” which finds in the idea of exile the origin of the lyric and the foundation of the genre of the love song. This acclaimed work embraces authors from Ibn ‘Arabi to Judah Halevi, from Dante to Eric Clapton. Her other books include “Writing in Dante's Cult of Truth: From Borges to Boccaccio,” and “The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History: A Forgotten Heritage.” She is the co-editor (with Raymond Scheindlin and Michael Sells) of “The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature: Al-Andalus,” a volume that places the Arabic literature of Islamic Spain in the context of the other languages and cultures of the Iberian peninsula. Her latest book, “The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture,” extends these themes through a rich investigation of cross-cultural interactions in language, literature, architecture, and the decorative arts. This work, undertaken in collaboration with art historian Jerrilynn Dodds and Arabist and historian Abigail Krasner Balbale, was named a “Best Book of 2009” by the Times Literary Supplement.
A native of Havana, Cuba, Menocal earned a B.A. in medieval Romance languages, an M.A. in French and a Ph.D. in Romance philology, all at the University of Pennsylvania. She became an assistant professor of Romance languages there in 1980, and also served as acting director of its Center for Italian Studies. She came to Yale in 1986 as a visiting associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, was named an associate professor the following year and was appointed a full professor in 1992. In 1993, she was named the R. Selden Rose Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, and in 2005 she became a Sterling Professor, the highest honor that Yale confers on members of its faculty.