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Jill Robbins, Chair 150 W 21st Street, Stop B3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4936

Fall 2003

SPN 374K • Colonial Spanish American Literature

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
45120 MWF
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
PAR 304

Course Description

They all claim to be telling the truth. Often, what each says contradicts the others. Who is to be believed? Why do they say what they do? In what was they do? This course examines the crucial moment in the forging of Spanish-american civilization, and many of its persistent dilemmas, through the examination of an exuberant and uniquely original body of narrative texts. We will try to answer some key questions about the often violent and always problematic encounter between European and indigenous civilizations through reading narratives and Aztec history and mythology, the first published description of the New World (Columbus’s “Carta de descubrimiento”), Cortés’s first-hand account of the conquest of Mexico (“Segunda carta de relación”). Selesctions from Las Casas’s Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias and Bernal Díaz’s Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España, as well as a number of indigenous representations (both pictographic and written) of the conquest and destruction of Tenochititlan. We will round out the representation of the conquest of Mexico with Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Naufragios. Finally, in contrast with these essentially historiographic (although perhaps highly fictionalized) depictions of the conquest, we will read the first explicitly “literary” (and most highly regarded of its type) representation of the conquest of the New World – Alonso de Ercilla’s La Araucana.

Grading Policy

Detailed outline of term paper & bibliography (approx. 5 pp.) 10% Preliminary draft of term paper (10 pp.) 20% Final draft of term paper (15 pp.) 30% Mid-Term Exam 15% Class Participation 10%


Required: Hernán Cortés. Cartas de relación. Ed. Manuel Alcalá. México: Porrúa, 1960. Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Naufragios. Ed. Trinidad Barrera. Madrid: Alianza, 1989. Alonso de Ercilla. La Araucana. Ed. Isaías Lerner. Madrid: Cátedra, 1993. Miguel León Portilla. La vision de los vencidos. México: UNAM, 1984. Beatriz Pastor. Discursos narratives de la conquista de América. Hanover, NH: Ediciones del Norte, 1998. Tedlock, Dennis, trans. Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life. 2nd Ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. Photcopied course reader. (Available at Abel’s Copies.)


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