Journal of Romance Studies

Memory and acculturation in the late medieval and early modern frontier ballad

Journal of Romance Studies (2004), 4, (3), 61–78.

Abstract

In this study the frontier ballads are approached as highly malleable, dynamic cultural forms whose representations of cultural encounter, as suggested by historian Angus MacKay, register ‘a process of acculturation’. Particular emphasis is placed on how differences in extant versions of the ballad of Abenámar record changing attitudes towards cross-cultural contact, encompassing not only Castilian variants but also those in the Sephardic tradition, where the depiction of the exchange between King John II, Abenámar and the personified city of Granada offers a testament to the ballads’ ideological flexibility and their capacity to create a space for diversity within the collective identity. Using the notion of ‘cultural memory’ as a methodological tool, the article studies Abenámar’s evolving reconstructions of the past as a means of coming to terms with the present, valued not because they are historically accurate but because they are meaningful to the specific groups they address.

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Yiacoup, Sizen