Abstracts for the session "Colonial Texts and Communities of Readers"

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    Monica Diaz
    1. “Circulating Spanish and European Texts in Colonial Latin America,” Angelica Duran, Purdue University.


    I seek to nuance our understanding and appreciation the history of textual presence of both Iberian-Spanish canonical literature specifically and also European canonical literature more generally in Colonial Latin America. In the first half of this paper, I evidence my claim that the early printing presses set up in Colonial Latin America marked a key step towards not only Spanish-American cultural admixture but also European-American cultural admixture. I explore the instance of the most famous early Latin-American press, that in Mexico City established 1539, as being a continuity of Spanish commercial and institutional Catholic Church domination on the one hand, given that established the press was established through the collaboration of the Iberian-Spanish Archbishbop Juan de Zumárraga the Sevillano Hans Cromberger. I then show, on the other hand, how the presses caused a disruption to the predominant East to West transference within Colonial Latin America of Spanish (language and culture) and other European (predominantly but not entirely in Spanish translation) texts.

    In the second half of this paper, I track the importation, distribution, and eventual native Latin-American Spanish translations and publication of the works of Spain’s Lope de Vega and Miguel Cervantes and England’s William Shakespeare and John Milton, since all were major English literary figures worldwide and because Spain and England were the major European forces that all Latin American countries encountered in the colonial American period.


    1. “Reading in the Margins of the Empire: Authority, Authenticity and Identity in Columbus’ Journal and Viscardo’s Letter to the Spanish Americans,” Jorge Téllez, University of Pennsylvania.

    Publics, as well as readers, are hard to grasp; they take as many forms as a text allows to. Invoking Michael Warner’s idea of publics as a “social space created by the reflexive circulation of discourse,” as well as Best and Marcus’ concept of “surface reading”, this paper examines the relation between the act of reading and the circulation of two texts linked to the beginning and the end of the colonial period: Columbus’ “Journal of the First Voyage” (1492-1493), and Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzman’s “Letter to the Spanish Americans” (1792). What these texts have in common is the presence of a reader to which they own their existence: even though Columbus’ Journal is lost, we have Las Casas’ copy of it; thanks to Francisco de Miranda, Viscardo’s Letter traveled from London to Spanish America. Specifically, I argue that the marginalia –annotations and footnotes– left in these texts led their public reception in regard to concepts such as authority, authenticity, identity and culture. Finally, I will study three tasks Las Casas and Viscardo undertook: as translators, they reflected on the production of the texts; as scribes, they preserved them; and as commentators, they attempted to control their circulation.


    1. “Guaman Poma’s Library: European Books and the Illustration of an Indigenous Manuscript,” George Antony Thomas, University of Nevada, Reno.

    The history of the book in colonial Latin America is a subject that merits further exploration, particularly in relation to the types of books that were readily available to indigenous readers. Guaman Poma’s Nueva corónica is one text that provides ample evidence of the interactions between an indigenous author and European print culture. As scholars have noted, references in Guaman Poma’s manuscript demonstrate his familiarity with a number of locally printed works and imported bestsellers: indigenous catechisms, devotional literature, historical chronicles, etc. Nevertheless, further scholarship on the influence of European printed images on Guaman Poma’s drawings is warranted. This paper will explore how one particular genre, the European costume book, influenced the illustrations in the Nueva corónica. Italian costume books, which often focused on descriptions of ancient rulers from imperial Rome, inspired Guaman Poma’s illustrated accounts of Inca rulers and their accomplishments. German and French costume books containing anti-Catholic descriptions of members of the clergy appear to be a model for the indigenous author’s critical renditions of colonial Peruvian clergymen. Finally, the anti-colonial costume books of the Low Countries clearly convey the genre’s importance in both establishing and contesting the dichotomy of civilization/barbarity in early modern print. These confluences not only suggest Guaman Poma’s ability to access books that do not usually appear on lists of titles that were circulating in the colonies, they also make apparent his ability to modify the conventions of European print culture in order to create a uniquely indigenous chronicle.


    1. “Celebration, Devotion, and Publication: Adapting the Spiritual Treatises of María Anna Águeda de San Ignacio ‘para su más fácil uso,’ ” Teresa Hancock-Parmer, Indiana University, Bloomington.


    Two years after the death of María Anna Águeda de San Ignacio (1695–1756), founder of the Dominican convent in Puebla, José Bellido published the nun’s hagiographic biography, to which he appended descriptions of her funeral commemorations as well as four extensive spiritual treatises that she composed. Bellido’s hefty tome contrasts with short devotional booklets of Águeda’s works subsequently printed in Puebla and Mexico. This paper juxtaposes the 1758 celebratory volume with a 1791 edition of Águeda’s Devociones varias, a pocket-sized prayer manual for use among both religious and laypersons, in order to examine the editorial decisions regarding text selection, woodcuts, and ecclesiastical addenda for the latter. Devociones varias foregrounds Águeda’s didactic writings, rather than embellished biography, although selectively and often in abridged forms. The chosen texts, their material placement and presentation, and their variations speak to the politics of printing nuns’ works, while also underscoring the prayer manual as both reflective and constitutive of ideal popular devotion. This analysis illuminates how, and in what forms, nuns’ spiritual teachings reached surrounding communities and influenced public spheres.


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