Book of the Fourth World: Reading the Native Americas Through Their Literature

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CUP Archive, 1992 - Literary Criticism - 478 pages
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At the time of its "discovery, " the American continent was identified as the Fourth World of our planet. Today the term has been taken up again by its "Indian" or native peoples to describe their own world - both its threatened present condition and its political history, which stretches back thousands of years before Columbus. Using indigenous sources as primary sources, Book of the Fourth World explores the landscapes and chronologies of this world as they have been seen and interpreted from the inside. Mapping the continent by this literary means, it pays particular attention to the well-documented traditions of the Nahuatl (Aztec) and Maya to the north of the isthmus, and of the Quechua-speaking Inca to the South. According to both the literary evidence and the testimony of native Americans themselves, notably at the Quito Conference of July 1990, an underlying coherence is to be found in the creation story told in the "bible of America, " the Popol vuh of the Quiche Maya. A classic of world literature, this 16th-century work sets out a story of evolution understood by Europe only hundreds of years later; its natural philosophy is now being defended, as a way of life critical to that of the planet itself, in the tropical forests of the Amazon. Taking a skeptical view of the 1992 quincentenary and respecting the testimony of the Indians themselves, this study brings together a wide range of evidence from what is now Latin and Anglo America. In doing so, it offers detailed analyses of texts ranging far back into the centuries of civilized life that antedated Columbus.

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America as the Fourth World
Language and its instances
Configurations of space
Configurations of time
Political memory
Turtle Island
World ages and metamorphosis
The epic
Into the language of America
The American palimpsest
Abbreviations used in Notes and Bibliography


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About the author (1992)

Edward Dorn is a professor in the Creative Writing/English department at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has been the recipient of a Fullbright Lectureship at the University of Essex, a D.H. Lawrence Fellowship, an American Book Award, and an American Book Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Gordon Brotherston is a research professor at the University of Essex and Professor at Indiana University, Bloomington. He helped to set up the Latin American program at the University of Essex in 1965 and has devoted his interest to the indigenous cultures which flourished for thousands of years before Columbus. He has been awarded fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, the British Academy, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

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