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Volume 58 / Humanities

LITERATURE: SPANISH AMERICA


Colonial Period

JENNIFER L. EICH, Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures, Loyola Marymount University


THE FIELD OF COLONIAL LATIN AMERICAN LITERARY and cultural studies continued to expand during this biennium, in part due to the marking of two historical milestones which served as umbrella themes for international and domestic conferences and symposia as well as points of departure for individual research and writing. The first event was the 500th anniversary of the encounter between Europe and the Americas, which earlier in the decade had prompted scholars to re-examine traditional texts and to reconsider works previously deemed of secondary or extraliterary interest. The second event was the commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the death of the Mexican intellectual and prodigy, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-95). Moreover, scholarly and general reader interest was generated in the colonial Spanish-American era itself as well as in those who lived in and wrote during the period.

Sor Juana's life and works, which now consistently attract the interest of scholars and students in many disciplines, and general readers, served as a theme for a number of conferences, symposia, and congresses in Latin America, Europe, and the US. Published proceedings from these symposia contributed in significant ways to the body of critical studies on the Hieronymite nun (items #bi 98003553# and #bi 98003559#). These authoritative, well-researched, and often intriguing studies, written by senior and junior scholars, cast new light on Sor Juana's poetry and prose as well as on some of the shadows in her life. This latter clarity emanates in part from the work of investigators who reflected upon or published newly discovered documents and brought forth new information about the nun herself (item #bi 98003564#) and her contemporaries. New anthologies and editions of the Hieronymite nun's writings have been published (items #bi 99002243#, #bi 99008659#, and #bi 97002235#), along with works attributed to her (items #bi 99002242# and #bi 97008668#). Perhaps most significant, however, are the critical studies that take a new approach to her writings. Some works are comparative and creative in nature (items #bi 99002238#, #bi 97008652#, #bi 98003554#, and #bi 97009485#) whereas others are more informative, especially with regard to previously unknown writings (items #bi 96010134#, #bi 98003565#, and #bi 96008388#). Yet traditional studies also continue to enlighten us about Sor Juana's works (items #bi 97008678#, #bi 97008685#, #bi 97008653#, #bi 98003557#, #bi 97008688#, #bi 00004038#, and #bi 00004033#) and other writers who engaged in discourse with her (item #bi 98003555#). Finally, the increasingly widespread and often interdisciplinary interest in the Mexican nun's work has led to noteworthy translations of her works (item #bi 00004040#).

A welcome consequence of the critical and general interest in Sor Juana's writings is a new focus on colonial women's writings in general. Historians and literary critics have organized symposia that illuminate the lives and works of other colonial women authors and the broader topic of women's writings. Some organizers edited and published symposia proceedings (items #bi 00004013# and #bi 98003986#) that contain scholarly contributions that are significant and often represent pioneering research. Equally important was the appearance of anthologies of essays treating colonial women, especially religious women's lives and their writings, and the sociocultural and literary restrictions they faced (items #bi 00004021#, #bi 00004020#, #bi 00004041#, #bi 00004042#, and #bi 98003986#). Other scholars offer us well-documented editions of unpublished texts (see HLAS 56:3442 and item #bi 97008690#).

Significantly, critical interest in recuperating texts by and giving voice to the marginalized extended beyond women to other minority groups. Literary studies of monolingual or bilingual and bicultural indigenous texts (items #bi 95024595# and #bi 00004022#) and indigenous utilization of European rhetorical models (see HLAS 56:3455) are splendid examples of this new direction in scholarship. This new interest was also evidenced in editions of unpublished manuscripts treating syncretic and Indo- and Hispano-American beliefs (item #bi 99002241#). Other scholars published works by authors formerly ignored or by those whose texts were unknown (items #bi 97008677# and #bi 97008656#).

The escalating interest in colonial Spanish-American writings, reflected in the continued hiring of colonial specialists at universities and colleges across the US, has generated an awareness of the importance of the literary and social history and culture of the period. Recent notable books and articles, whose theoretical and/or critical frameworks concentrate on the social and cultural discourses of the colonial era, reflect this perception (items #bi 98003563#, #bi 00004018#, #bi 98003987#, #bi 00004025#, #bi 98003993#, #bi 00004030#, #bi 00004035#, and #bi 00004039#). Fundamental literary, sociocultural, and bibliographical histories of the colonial period were published (items #bi 00004011#, #bi 97000763#, #bi 97008687#, and #bi 97008672#), while other significant studies re-evaluated literary genres such as drama (items #bi 98003566#, #bi 00004019#, and #bi 98003987#) and the concept of genre itself (item #bi 00004031#). Still other contributions derive from scholarly study of minor texts by canonic authors such as Bernardo de Balbuena (items #bi 00004032# and #bi 97008662#) or of texts written by seminal intellectual figures such as Sigüenza y Góngora (item #bi 98003560#), fray Servando Teresa de Mier (item #bi 97008654#) and Pedro de Peralta Barnuevo (item #bi 98003994#).

Primary and secondary historiographical and literary texts receive rekindled interest, resulting in new editions of works by canonic authors such as the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (items #bi 98003561#, #bi 97008663#, #bi 97008689#, and #bi 97008667#). New works examine previously unpublished documents (item #bi 00004015#), those formerly considered outside the scope of literary analysis (item #bi 00004017#), and even offer suggestions on how to read these lesser-known works (item #bi 00004027#). Other studies re-evaluate canonic texts in light of a new theoretical understanding of hybrid texts—those that mix history and literature, for example (items #bi 96024452#, #bi 98003552#, and #bi 98003988#).

Ultimately, interest in the Americas generated studies of colonial-era works by Peninsular Spanish and European authors who included American topics and/or themes in their visual and written texts (items #bi 97008671#, #bi 97008684#, #bi 95015189#, #bi 97008664#, #bi 97008661#, and #bi 97008658#). One rather interesting study turns the mirror around and looks at representations of Europe in Colombian travel writings (item #bi 00004012#).

Most conclusively, the increasing interest and importance of colonial-era writers and their works can be seen in the number of contemporary Latin American writers whose works treat literary and historical figures and events from their nation's colonial past. These cross-cultural and diachronic perspectives offer new and intriguing texts to the scholar and the student as well as the general and interdisciplinary reader.


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