1492 is a mythic story, whether the spin is positive or negative, and myths cannot easily be surrendered. It is worth asking ourselves why we are so eager to believe them. Rather than trying to replace the myth with some “truth,” perhaps it is best to acknowledge the Columbus story as an allegory, a literary genre whose true object is missing or displaced. In the end, Columbus’s journal charts not simply his way to the Americas, but also the onset of a crisis of representation that will affect modernity as a whole. (What comes to be) Latin America induces in a particular way an anxiety about our inability to communicate, even to say what things are.
2. The Meeting of Two Worlds
1492 is a mythic story, whether the spin is positive or negative, and myths cannot easily be surrendered.
- The Voyage of Christopher Columbus: Columbus' Own Journal of Discovery Newly Restored and Translated (originally written 1492-93; later partially transcribed by Bartolomé de las Casas). Ed. John Cummins. New York: St Martin's Press, 1992.
- Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, The First New Chronicle and Good Government (written c. 1608-1616). Trans. David Frye. See also The Guaman Poma Website.
BTS: Guamán Poma de Ayala
The Meeting of Two Worlds: Aztec Edition
Sophie Chevalier, Michelle Marin, Elena Munk, and Christiana Tse:
The Meeting of Two Worlds IV
Thomas Seagrave, Daniel Fielburg, Jasmin Jhaj, Rick Cheng, and Christine Santa María:
The Meeting of Two Worlds II
Jackson, Spiro, Chica:
The Meeting of Two Worlds III
Angela Pope, Ishan Gill, Deone Young, and Francisco Botero:
“The Meeting of Two Worlds”
Matthew Landberg and Brette Harrington on Columbus and Las Casas:
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- The Guaman Poma Website, from the Royal Danish library, which has the complete manuscript in facsimile and transcribed. Spanish and some English.
- Alonso de Ercilla y Zuñiga, The Araucaniad. Trans. Charles Lancaster. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2012. Spanish version downloadable from Memoria Chilena.
- Stephen Greenblatt, Marvellous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
- Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Harper & Row, 1984.
- Both Columbus and Guamán Poma are writing for a specific audience: the Spanish crown. How does this fact shape their texts? In what ways do they show they are aware of this audience?
- Both texts are also writing from the New World to the Old. In what ways do they try to translate the experience of life in the Americas for European readers?
- It's often tempting to cast Columbus as hero or villain. For many years he was seen as the former; these days, he's more often portrayed as the latter. Is either approach helpful?
- Guamán Poma's book combines images with writing. What is the effect of this interplay of different media or forms of representation?
- The arrival of Europeans quite obviously changed the Americas very dramatically, though it perhaps took some time for all these changes to be felt, and the impact varied in timing and effect in different parts of the continent. How might we go about describing and assessing these changes? What evidence to we have for some of these changes in the texts written by Columbus and Guamán Poma?
- The arrival of Europeans also changed Europe, if perhaps in ways less obvious to us. How might we go about describing and assessing these changes? What evidence to we have for some of these changes in the texts written by Columbus and Guamán Poma?