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

Fall 2008

SPN 380K • Epic of the Indies

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
48260 M
3:00 PM-6:00 PM
BEN 1.118

Course Description

Spanish-American literary narrative texts attract keen interest around the world today, and these novels and short stories are considered among the most innovative in contemporary world literature. Nonetheless, the first narrative representations of the foundation of Spanish-American civilization to be conceived of by both authors and reading public as "literary" as opposed to strictly historiographical texts are the poems known collectively as the epopeyas de Indias. Written during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, these long narrative poems constituted the creation of a revolutionary new sub-genre of the traditional European epic, and stand today as the finest examples of Iberian Renaissance epic poetry. Furthermore, because the learned epic poem written in the tradition overshadowed by the Aneid functions as a cultural practice explicitly centered in a dynamic of legitimization/subversion of authority, some of these works continued to be read as foundational texts even after Independence, and still play a central role in contemporary debates about the nature and direction of Spanish-American culture.

In this course we begin by examining the epic tradition within, and against which, the "epics of the Indies" were written. We will read selections from Virgil's Aeneid, Lucans Pharsalia, and Ariostos Orlando Furioso. Although specific references will be made to passages in the original languages, the selections from these texts may be read in either English or Spanish translation, and we will make specific use of sixteenth-century Spanish translations of these poems that are available in microfilm and photocopies. Once the framework of the epic tradition and pertinent Renaissance theories of imitation have been examined, we will commence our reading of the epic representation of America with the Cortés sections from Luis Zapatas Carlo famoso,a reading of several episodes from the poem Nuevo mundo y conquista attributed to Francisco Terrazas (generally considered the first major criollo poet of New Spain, and then engage in a careful critical reading of Alonso de Ercillas Araucana. The reading of La Araucana will be supplemented by readings of Ercillas greatest contemporary rival, Luis de Camoenss Os Lusíadas--the other flagship epic of the Iberian Imperial Age, and the celebration of Iberias contact with the other Indies--, and of Ercillas most well known New World imitator, Pedro de Oñas Arauco domado. Finally, if time allows, we will read the New World passages from Bernardo de Balbuenas El Bernardo and selections of Gaspar Pérez de Villagrás Historia de la Nueva México. Reference will be made to other epics of the Indies as well, and all readings will be presented in conjunction with a review of the critical literature, with special emphasis on current analyses and debates about the representation of America and the other in the sixteenth century.

Grading Policy

Two oral presentations 30% Comentario de texto (oral) 10% Research term paper 50% Class participation 10%

Methodology: The course will be conducted as a seminar. Active participation on the part of all students is essential. Each student will give one oral presentation of a critical article, and in the final weeks of the course, another on the subject of their term paper project, as well as an orally delivered textual commentary.


Ludovico Ariosto. Orlando Furioso. Trans. Barbara Reynolds. 2 vols. Hammondsworth: Penguin, 1975. Students who read Italian are encouraged to use the Garzanti or Rusconi editions. References will also be made to the Planeta edition prepared by Francisco José Alcántara and translated into Castilian by Jerónimo de Urrea (in 1549. (Or perhaps selections from the Cátedra bi-lingual [Italian/Spanish] edition), as well.) Luis de Camoens. Os Lusíadas. Intro. e notas Maria Letícia Dionísio. n. p.: Publicações Europa-América, n.d. The student may substitute an English or Spanish translation if desired, but references in class will be made to the indicated Portuguese edition. Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga. La Araucana. Ed. Isaías Lerner. Madrid: Cátedra, 1993. Lucan. The Civil War: Books I-IX. Ed. and Trans. J. D. Duff. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard UP, 1928. Oña, Pedro de. Arauco domado. Ed. José Toribio Medina. Santiago: Imp. Universitaria, 1917 (only available in photocopy). Pastor, Beatriz Discursos narrativos de la conquista: emergencia y mitificación. 2nd ed. Hanover, New Hampshire: Ediciones del Norte, 1988. Quint, David. Epic and Empire: Politics and Generic Form from Virgil to Milton. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992. Virgil. Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Random House, 1984. Photocopied Course Reader, hereafter referred to as El Cuaderno; can be purchased at Abel's Copies, University Towers, 715-D W. 23rd St, 472-5353,,


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