Ashley Koca's (CAS '25) article, "Stars and the Supersensory: Nasrid Sufism and the Application of the Philosophy of Ibn al-Khatib in the Alhambra’s Architecture," will be published this year in the Fenjan journal, the University of Pennsylvania's Undergraduate journal for Near Eastern Studies. In this piece, Koca explores "the starlike imagery seen throughout the Alhambra," and the ways in which such imagery "functions as sigils calling upon the heavens to channel divine power into the hands of the Nasrids, the last Islamic dynasty in the Iberian Peninsula."
Koca first wrote this essay in her Fall '21 First-Year Writing Seminar -- ART HISTORY 1132: Seeing, Reading, and Writing the Alhambra with Professor Cynthia Robinson. Here is the course description:
This course is centered on Granada’s Alhambra, built, for the most part, during the middle decades of the fourteenth century A.D. Both the most complete surviving medieval Islamic palace and the most popular tourist destination in Spain, throughout the more-than-six centuries of its existence, the Alhambra has inspired admiration and interpretation, this latter being influenced by intellectual trends and cultural currents as varied as Romanticism, positivism, Orientalism, post-structuralism, post-colonial theory, and literature for tourists—it was even the setting for Washington Irving’s famed Tales of the Alhambra. In this class, students will learn to view and to write about the Alhambra through the lenses offered by these various movements and currents, as well as through the eyes of its contemporary audience, the fourteenth-century poets, courtiers, kings, mystics, and the occasional Christian ally who frequented its beautifully ornamented halls and patios.
Koca chose to take Professor Robinson's FWS to serve as an introduction to the art history department here at Cornell. At the time of course selection, she recounts, "I wasn't sure if I would be interested in becoming an art history major, so I thought that using my FWS would be the safest way to dip my toes into the water."
And the course turned out to be "a fantastic experience." Koca explains: "I feel that I not only learned how to write, but learned so much about how I write and how I can improve my own process. Professor Robinson was incredibly encouraging and engaging. I came into the class knowing nothing about Spanish art, let alone Islamic art, and now I think it may be what I want to specialize in throughout my time as an art history major here at Cornell."
In reflecting on the First-Year Writing Seminar program more generally, Koca notes: "the learning environment was small, welcome to any and all ideas, and incredibly in-depth. So far, it has been my favorite course that I have taken."
Here is more about Ashley Koca from her autobiographical statement: "I am a freshman from the suburbs of Chicago studying Art History and Classical Civilization. I am involved with Alpha Phi, The Cornell Daily Sun, Thread Magazine, and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum Club."