Relations of Empire: Spanish and Portuguese Narratives of Imperial Expansion
This course investigated relations between the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish and Portuguese empires by reading from the written relations of these empires: relaciones and relações of discovery and conquest as well as shipwreck and captivity overseas, and accounts of the celebration of imperial expansion through festivities at home. Paying particular attention to the status of “true history” in both travel narratives and contemporary reportage of public festivals, both of which so often invoke the titles of “relación verdadera” or “relaçam verdadeira,” as the Newberry’s catalogue can attest. Another line of inquiry will be the relationship between the triumphalist discourse of discovery, conquest, and celebration and its negative underside in narratives of military defeat, shipwreck, and captivity. By exploring both under-utilized sources held at the Newberry and more canonical works, the course will serve as an introduction to the written representation of Spanish and Portuguese imperial expansion, particularly in the New World. The juxtaposition of Spanish and Portuguese sources will aim to highlight both the distinctive features of the respective empires and their complex, interconnected histories. Among the texts to be studied are Columbus’s and Pero Vaz de Caminha’s letters of “discovery” (1493 and 1500); the shipwreck accounts included in Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés’s Historia general y natural de las Indias (1535) and Bernardo Gomes de Brito Freire’s História Trágico-Marítima (1735-36), which includes Portuguese accounts of shipwreck from the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries; Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Relación y comentarios (1542 and 1555); the Fidalgo d’Elvas’s Relaçam verdadeira dos trabalhos que […] passarom no descobrimento da provincia da Florida (1557) and the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega’s La Florida del Inca (1605); and accounts of Philip II’s and Philip III’s entries into Lisbon in 1581 and 1619, respectively.
Participants: Brandee Ball, University of Chicago; Kimberly Borchard, University of Chicago; Juan Gil, University of Chicago; Karl Kooistra, University of Chicago; Ruth Mackay, Newberry Fellow; Carmela Mattza, University of Chicago; Aaron Olivas, University of Chicago; Phillip Round, University of Iowa; Sean Smith, University of Chicago; Erika Storella, University of Chicago; Corey Thompson, University of Chicago
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