The Armature of Conquest: Spanish Accounts of the Discovery of America, 1492-1589

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Stanford University Press, 1992 - History - 317 pages
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The discovery, exploration, and conquest of the New World is here imaginatively treated as a journey from fantasy to reality, from complicity to rejection, from mythification to criticism. Focusing on certain key firsthand narratives of the Spanish conquest, the author views various journals, letters, and other documents not merely as narratives of facts and events but as literary expressions of the dynamics of the writers' experience: recording the transformation of their perceptions of New World realities and showing the gradual development of a critical consciousness that questions their sense of identity and the validity of European cultural models. The author illuminates the conceptual and aesthetic developments that mark the beginnings of a new literature in the making. Gradually, the aesthetic requirements and canons of Europe are left behind as this new literature begins to convey the new realities of colonial Spanish America that shape the complex poetics of Alonso de Ercilla's great epic poem La Araucana. The book begins with analyses of texts by Christopher Columbus and Hernan Cortes, showing how the discourse of mythification fictionalizes both the New World itself and the nature and meaning of the conquest. Then, as the conquistadors' expeditions increasingly fail disillusionment engenders ideological crisis, questioning, and demythification, as exemplified in Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's Naufragios. The book concludes by synthesizing the various historical and aesthetic elements that led to the awakening in the conquistadors of a new, divided, and contradicting consciousness, whose first literary flowering was La Araucana.

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Introduction I
Chapter Three
The Models in Crisis
Chapter Five
A Literary Expression of a New Consciousness
Notes I

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