Iberian Expansion: One World or Many?
The chroniclers who reflected on Iberian overseas expansion during the early modern period often asked themselves a crucial question: was there only one world or many? Could the "New World," unknown to the ancients, be entirely detached from the rest of human history? Many of them continued to think that the world was divided into three parts: Europe, Asia, and Africa. In their descriptions of the Americas, they drew heavily on histories and travel reports pertaining to other epochs and locales, especially contemporary Asia and ancient Rome. Meanwhile, local authors and artists used news of distant conflicts to reflect on the immediacy of their historical experience. In this course, we will consider the ways in which conquistadors, missionaries, and indigenous authors in New Spain (Mexico), Brazil, and Peru contemplated themselves in the looking glass of remote times and places: from Greco-Roman Antiquity to Lutheran Germany, from the Ottoman Mediterranean to the Apocalyptic End of Times. Students will reassess the importance of this archive to early modern studies writ large and challenge the scholarly tendency to frame the Iberian Peninsula as the center and the Americas as the periphery. Primary sources will include sixteenth and seventeenth-century chronicles, reports, poetry, theater, pictographic codices, feather mosaics, and maps. Reading knowledge of Spanish and a willingness to work with Portuguese required.