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The Harry Levin Prize Citation 2017

Scrupulously attentive to the intertwined and unsettled discourses of history, theology, and literature, Seth Kimmel’s Parables of Coercion: Conversion and Knowledge at the End of Islamic Spain is a remarkable account of scholarly debates leading up to the expulsion of Moriscos, as Spanish converts from Islam were called in the early modern period. Kimmel’s focus on learned arguments among late scholastic commentators, especially in Grenada, reveals surprising strands in debates about faith, conversion, scriptural forgery and authenticity, and dissimulation. Six intricately argued chapters, marked by close attention to philological details in Spanish and Arabic, reveal the complex textures of arguments about coercion and belief in that concentrated terrain. Coercion could produce dissimulations of faith; it could also produce, in time, practices that might lead to faith: Kimmel’s discussions of this paradox and others related to the legibility of belief are consistently fascinating. Timely without trumpeting its own relevance, Parables of Coercion is a model of comparative scholarship informed by deep knowledge, historical perspicacity, immersion in its archive, and literary and rhetorical alertness.

2017 Harry Levin Prize Committee:
Gaurav Desai (University of Michigan - Committee Chair 2016-2017)
Jesús R. Velasco (Columbia University)
Martin Harries (University of California, Irvine)