lecture 2: The Invention of America: Colonial encounters

lecture 1: Colonial Encounters
Critical reading
N. Scott Momaday: “The Native Voice.” The Columbia Literary History of the United States. 4-15.
Wayne Franklin: “The Literature of Discovery and Exploration.” Ibid. 16-23.
A) Native American oral traditions
- more than 350 Native American languages at the time of the discovery of America
- the relevance of oral traditions in preserving the cultural identity of the community ;oral traditions apply
different, non-linear conceptions of time, alien to European notions of time and history)
- the magical quality of words: re-creating the world / experience
- the absence of the concept of “fictionality”: stories are “true”
- the role and responsibility of the storyteller
- the importance of female power; the central place of the feminine in creation myths, especially in agricultural
communities, the role of women as transmitters of knowledge
- a diversity of “genres”: narrative songs; creation myths; culture hero and trickster stories; prophecies
B) European colonization of the New World
1. 1607, Jamestown: Virginia: trade and agriculture, mostly Anglican
2. the South (the Carolinas): trade and agriculture, mostly Anglican
3. New England (Massachusetts), Puritan settlements
4. 1681 Pennsylvania, founded by William Penn, utopian religious experiments (Quakers, Mennonites)
1. northeast
2. lower Mississippi area
1. Hudson river, Delaware river areas
2. Manhattan (New Amsterdam)
New Mexico, California (through explorations from Central America)
C) The literature of travel and exploration
1498 Christopher Columbus: “The Third Voyage”: the “Terrestrial Paradise”; his own career: mission
- original journal lost; transcriptions by Bartolomeo Las Casas
- theory about the shape of the earth: strict reliance on authorities (Ptolemy, the Bible, Marco Polo; Bede, Scotus,
I have always read that the world, both land and water, was spherical, as the authority and researches of
Ptolemy and all the others who have written on this subject demonstrate and prove, as do the eclipses of the
moon and other experiments . . .
. . . I am completely persuaded in my own mind that the Terrestrial Paradise is in the place I have described,
and I rely upon the arguments and authorities above cited.
- a version of the “small-earth theory” (the Indies thought to be situated much closer)
- conceives his own career as mission; considers colonization as a “very noble Enterprise” (imperial and
1524 Giovanni da Verrazzano: Letters to the King (translated by Richard Hakluyt in 1582
- the first to question ancient authorities; argues for a new version of the globe
“[T]here appeared a new land which had never been seen before by any man, either ancient or modern.”
D) The captivity narrative 1
Secular autobiographical accounts
1542 Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca: La Relación (The Narrative of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca)
- communication with his captors (Indians’ linguistic competence; not inarticulate savages; account of the
difference in dialects); enlightened but determined colonizer
1624 Captain John Smith: The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles
- first to write in English about first-hand experience; creator of an enduring America myth (Pocahontas)
- early formulation of a prevailing image of America (an open society; irrelevance of family connections, wealth
and formal education; the prospect of prosperity, happiness and independence)
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