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Colonial Mediascapes

Colonial Mediascapes: Sensory Worlds of the Early Americas

Matt Cohen
Jeffrey Glover
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    Colonial Mediascapes
    Book Description:

    In colonial North and South America, print was only one way of communicating. Information in various forms flowed across the boundaries between indigenous groups and early imperial settlements. Natives and newcomers made speeches, exchanged gifts, invented gestures, and inscribed their intentions on paper, bark, skins, and many other kinds of surfaces. No one method of conveying meaning was privileged, and written texts often relied on nonwritten modes of communication.

    Colonial Mediascapesexamines how textual and nontextual literatures interacted in colonial North and South America. Extending the textual foundations of early American literary history, the editors bring a wide range of media to the attention of scholars and show how struggles over modes of communication intersected with conflicts over religion, politics, race, and gender. This collection of essays by major historians, anthropologists, and literary scholars demonstrates that the European settlement of the Americas and European interaction with Native peoples were shaped just as much by communication challenges as by traditional concerns such as religion, economics, and resources.

    eISBN: 978-0-8032-5440-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature, History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword (pp. xi-xii)
    Paul Chaat Smith

    Colonial Mediascapesis a bold and ambitious project that proposes new ways of thinking about books, technology, and American Indians.

    When the old ways of thinking are filled with rusted and corroding words, sometimes the new ways require new words. New words are usually off-putting, and in fact the clumsy word for new words (neologism) is itself a perfect example. However, the argument in the pages that follow is so groundbreaking, and so profound and disorientating, that it justifies the creation of new names for new things.

    Let me crudely characterize the existing discourse. The winter count calendar is (kind...

  5. Acknowledgments (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction (pp. 1-44)
    Matt Cohen and Jeffrey Glover

    New World colonialism catalyzed an extraordinary range of controversies and theories about humanness and history, many of which centered on the question of communication—and writing in particular. Could a people without what Westerners recognized as “writing” know their own history? Could they be converted to Christianity, and if so, what would be the proper means of doing so? Such questions evolved in eighteenth-century Europe and its colonies into debates about the patterns of human history and the possibility of a universal language, and in the nineteenth, into arguments about human evolution and the relationships between race and writing. As...

    • 1 Dead Metaphor or Working Model? “THE BOOK” IN NATIVE AMERICA (pp. 47-75)
      Germaine Warkentin

      On July 12, 1562, Diego de Landa (1524–79), the bishop of Yucatán, ordered the friars at the Franciscan mission in Mani to put to the torch a quantity of Mayan “idols,” calendar scrolls (katuns), and “books.” In his 1566Relación de las cosas de Yucatán, Landa observed of thekatunsthat they must have been invented by the devil, or by some idolator convinced of all the “principal deceits, divinations and delusions” under which, in his view, the benighted Mayans suffered. As for the “libros,” he wrote,

      these people also used certain glyphs or letters, in which they wrote...

    • 2 Early Americanist Grammatology: DEFINITIONS OF WRITING AND LITERACY (pp. 76-98)
      Andrew Newman

      InThe Legacies of Literacy: Continuities and Contradictions in Western Culture and Society, Harvey Graff points out that “virtually all” discussions of literacy “founder because they slight efforts to formulate consistent and realisticdefinitions of literacy, have little appreciation of theconceptual complicationsthat the subject presents, and ignore the vital role ofsociohistorical context.”¹ Yet within the mainstream of literacy studies, the issue has been less to define literacy than to establish a standard or norm for the application of an existing definition, which corresponds to the lay understanding of literacy as “the ability to use reading and writing”...

    • 3 Indigenous Histories and Archival Media in the Early Modern Great Lakes (pp. 99-138)
      Heidi Bohaker

      For historians seeking to understand indigenous responses to colonialism in early America, or indigenous histories more broadly, the necessity of relying exclusively on sources authored by colonists has proved a frustrating limitation. In recent decades, scholars have thought carefully about the reliability of European-authored sources for the writing of indigenous histories. These researchers have integrated methodologies from comparative literature and history to understand their sources as constructions of European imaginations and discursive practices.¹ Few have arrived at so extreme a conclusion as literary critic Stephen Greenblatt, who argues in his study of the Columbian voyages that the lens through which...

    • 4 The Manuscript, the Quipu, and the Early American Book: DON FELIPE GUAMAN POMA DE AYALA’S NUEVA CORÓNICA Y BUEN GOBIERNO (pp. 141-165)
      Birgit Brander Rasmussen

      In 1613, a Native American from the Andes who called himself Don Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala finished a 1,189-page manuscript titledNueva corónica y buen gobierno.¹ Addressed to King Phillip III of Spain, this text represents an immensely ambitious effort to address colonial Spain by an indigenous American writer who lived through the aftermath of conquest. It has long been a centerpiece of colonial Latin American studies, although there are no full translations that would make Guaman Poma accessible to an anglophone audience.² This unique book also deserves the attention of scholars of colonialism, American literature, and American book...

    • 5 Semiotics, Aesthetics, and the Quechua Concept of Quilca (pp. 166-202)
      Galen Brokaw

      European societies have always seen writing as an important indicator of “civilization.” Even today, many scholars seem to feel compelled to pronounce on whether or not the cultures they study possessed a form of writing. One could argue on a number of different grounds that such statements are inaccurate, but disagreements of this kind ultimately come down to how one defines writing. The problem with pronouncements about the absence of writing is not that they are incorrect but rather that the terms and conditions that make them correct are determined by a sociocultural, political, and historical context that is incompatible...

      Gordon M. Sayre

      Southwestern humor, including the tall tale, emerged into U.S. literary history in the Jacksonian period, as white anglophone backsettlers gained political influence among East Coast metropolitans. It reached canonical status, of course, with Mark Twain, whose pen name came from his career on the Mississippi, the conduit of regional commerce and the home waters for the tall tale. In researching the history and literature of eighteenth-century Louisiana, I have found evidence that the Mississippi tall tale has French origins that long precede Anglo-American literature in the region. In this essay I offer two tales that might satisfy such a search...

    • 7 Brave New Worlds: THE FIRST CENTURY OF INDIAN-ENGLISH ENCOUNTERS (pp. 233-265)
      Peter Charles Hoffer

      How do we deal with novelty, the unexpected, the unforeseen? When our senses alert us that we face a new situation, how do we respond? Insofar as senses are tutored by our culture, our reaction to the unfamiliar is scripted. The intonations are our own; the words are those that every other actor in the same role recites. Such pre-set cognitive patterns are psychologically necessary. In every culture and for every individual, cognitive frameworks do not operate willy-nilly on novelty. Our minds work hard to fit the new into the old.¹

      To avoid cognitive dissonance, the mental friction produced by...

    • 8 Howls, Snarls, and Musket Shots: SAYING “THIS IS MINE” IN COLONIAL NEW ENGLAND (pp. 266-289)
      Jon Coleman

      Woath woach ha ha hach woath. The great and hideous cry jerked the landing party awake. “Arm, arm,” yelled a sentinel. Muskets boomed and fell silent. Men traded whispers in the dark. One, a sailor, had heard the cry before. Companies of wolves, he reported, often sung to him and his mates on the cod-fishing boats off the coast of Newfoundland. Convinced that wolves “or such like wild beasts” had made the noise, the men slept, rousing themselves in the morning to pack their shallop (the small boat sent from theMayflowerto search for a settlement site) and eat....

    • 9 Hearing Wampum: THE SENSES, MEDIATION, AND THE LIMITS OF ANALOGY (pp. 290-322)
      Richard Cullen Rath

      In 1756, Virginia citizens were feeling anxious and vulnerable to the threat of the Catawbas and Cherokees joining the French in the war against the English. Relations with the Indians were already strained on a number of fronts. Catawbas had successfully played internal colonial interests off against each other, so that Virginia had only recently been vying with South Carolina and North Carolina for their loyalties. Virginia had also skipped the unsuccessful Albany Conference, but it had been no more successful in its independent negotiations. With the French and Indian War looming large in their thoughts, the Virginians were now...

    • 10 Writing as “Khipu”: TITU CUSI YUPANQUI’S ACCOUNT OF THE CONQUEST OF PERU (pp. 325-356)
      Ralph Bauer

      In 1571 the penultimate ruler of the Inca dynasty, Titu Cusi Yupanqui, collaborated with an Augustinian monk and a mestizo secretary to produce a text unique in the history of early American mediascapes.Instrucción del Inca Don Diego de Castro Titu Cusi Yupanqui al Licenciado don Lope García de Castrois an account of the conquest of Peru told not from the familiar perspective of the Spanish conquerors but from the perspective of one of the main actors in the Andean resistance to the European colonial order. It was written down far from the centers of Spanish power, in the...

      Jeffrey Glover

      In the fall of 1710, the French Jesuit Louis d’Avaugour wrote to his superior Joseph Louis-Germain to report on the town of Lorette, located on the bank of the Saint-Charles River just northwest of Quebec. After briefly describing his evangelical endeavors among the “holy savages” (Christian Indians) living in the town, d’Avaugour quickly turned to the topic of France’s precarious relationship with neighboring Huron military allies.¹ In the face of growing English control over trading routes, he worried that the Hurons might “flock to the neighboring [English] heretics, from whom they make a much greater profit.” Yet d’Avaugour also had...

    • 12 The Algonquian Word and the Spirit of Divine Truth: JOHN ELIOT’S INDIAN LIBRARY AND THE ATLANTIC QUEST FOR A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE (pp. 376-408)
      Sarah Rivett

      Over the course of the settlement of the New World in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, European missionaries discovered the power and knowledge available to those who learned Indian languages. Spanish missionaries began a massive effort to compile, organize, and record indigenous tongues. In 1547, Pedro de Gante published theDoctrina Cristiana, offering a Nahuatl text in which the linguistic knowledge set in black-letter type comes from twenty-nine manuscript leaves, produced by a number of hands (see fig. 12.1). Introduced in Spanish, the purpose of de Gante’sDoctrina Cristianawas to increase knowledge of Nahuatl among Spanish speakers, many of...

  11. Contributors (pp. 409-412)
  12. Index (pp. 413-438)