Discourses of Empire

Discourses of Empire: Counter-Epic Literature in Early Modern Spain

BARBARA SIMERKA
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/j.ctt7v141
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  • Book Info
    Discourses of Empire
    Book Description:

    The counter-epic is a literary style that developed in reaction to imperialist epic conventions as a means of scrutinizing the consequences of foreign conquest of dominated peoples. It also functioned as a transitional literary form, a bridge between epic narratives of military heroics and novelistic narratives of commercial success. In Discourses of Empire, Barbara Simerka examines the representation of militant Christian imperialism in early modern Spanish literature by focusing on this counter-epic discourse. Simerka is drawn to literary texts that questioned or challenged the imperial project of the Hapsburg monarchy in northern Europe and the New World. She notes the variety of critical ideas across the spectrum of diplomatic, juridical, economic, theological, philosophical, and literary writings, and she argues that the presence of such competing discourses challenges the frequent assumption of a univocal, hegemonic culture in Spain during the imperial period. Simerka is especially alert to the ways in which different discourses—hegemonic, residual, emergent—coexist and compete simultaneously in the mediation of power. Discourses of Empire offers fresh insight into the political and intellectual conditions of Hapsburg imperialism, illuminating some rarely examined literary genres, such as burlesque epics, history plays, and indiano drama. Indeed, a special feature of the book is a chapter devoted specifically to indiano literature. Simerka's thorough working knowledge of contemporary literary theory and her inclusion of American, English, and French texts as points of comparison contribute much to current studies of Spanish Golden Age literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05447-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. 1 Toward a Materialist Poetics of Counter-Epic Literature
    (pp. 1-14)

    Discourses of empire appear in artistic, political, and theological writings of every genre in circulation in early modern Spain—from Lascasian critiques of forced conversion and genocide to the explications of Roman law by three generations of jurists who sought legal validation of Spain’s right to the territory, labor, and mineral wealth of America, from Ercilla’s poetic denunciation of Spanish military practices in Chile to hagiographic dramatizations of the lives of theconquistadorescommissioned by their seventeenth-century progeny. This study focuses upon identifying and analyzing literary texts that represent and mediate discourses of imperialism in early modern Spain. It is...

  5. 2 “So That the Rulers Might Sleep Without Bad Dreams”: Imperial Ideology and Practices
    (pp. 15-38)

    As Philip Mason has observed, imperialist societies require an ideology that permits both the colonizer and the colonized to accept imperial power relations as the natural order—an ideology that provides restful nights for the rulers.¹ Conventional analyses of early modern Spanish society and its cultural formations interpret the post-Tridentine period as an era characterized by a monolithic, universal affirmation of Spain’s role as the “Defender of the Catholic Faith.” Historian Raffaele Puddu’s viewpoint, similar to that of José Antonio Maravall, allows no room for dissent. Puddu asserts, “el espiritú público castellano se caracterizaba por el respeto a las tradiciones,...

  6. 3 Liminal Identity and Polyphonic Ideology in Indiano Drama
    (pp. 39-76)

    The celebration (or condemnation) of the quincentennial anniversary of the first European encounter with America gave rise to a reconsideration of Columbus’s legacy and a much-needed examination of thecomedia’srepresentation of the New World and its inhabitants. This examination, however, tended to focus on the Spanish presence in the Americas and on the peoples encountered there. Comparatively little critical attention has been granted to the effects of the colonial enterprise as mediated in peninsular Spanish cultural productions, even though a significant number of Golden Age dramas feature anindianocharacter who plays a crucial role in thedénouementof...

  7. 4 The Early Modern History Play as Counter-Epic Mode: Cervantes’s La destrucción de Numancia and Lope de Vega’s Arauco domado
    (pp. 77-128)

    Cervantes’sLa destrucción de Numancia (The Destruction of Numancia)and Lope de Vega’sArauco domado (Arauco Conquered), which dramatize imperial battles fought at Numancia in the second century a.d. and in sixteenthcentury Chile, are the best-known and most widely studied examples of counter-epic Spanish literature examined in this book. This chapter will analyze the polygeneric, ideologically complex representation of Spanish and Roman imperial practice in the two plays by demonstrating the connections between the counter-epic and contemporary notions (as conceived by Phyllis Rackin and John Loftis) of the nature and function of the early modern history play.

    In highlighting the...

  8. 5 The Novelistic History Play: Rojas Zorrilla’s Numancia Diptych and González de Bustos’s Los españoles en Chile
    (pp. 129-160)

    The dramatization of Spain’s Roman period as presented in Rojas Zorrilla’s diptych,Numancia cercada (Numancia Under Siege)andNumancia destruida (Numancia Destroyed), constitutes not only a counter-epic history play as described in Chapter 4 but also a reinscription of the Cervantine drama upon the same topic written more than a half-century earlier. Similarly,Los españoles en Chile (Spaniards in Chile)offers a meditation on Spanish attempts to pacify the indigenous peoples of Chile and on the series of epic poems and dramas that inscribed that effort.¹ This chapter will continue to explore the counter-epic history play’s aesthetic and ideological dimensions...

  9. 6 “War and Lechery”: La gatomaquia and the Burlesque Epic
    (pp. 161-180)

    According to Gregory Colomb, the parody of epic literary conventions functions as “propaganda” for discrediting aristocratic privilege, which is often grounded in the glorification of military heroism associated with epic literature (Designs on Truth, xv). Although Colomb’s remarks refer to Augustan English mock-heroic literature, his observation is relevant to a “sociology of genres” approach to the early modern Spanish burlesque epic (Bennett,Outside Literature, 112). This chapter will analyze the burlesque epic as a specific form of counter-epic poetics characterized by the combination of an aesthetic strategy—the parody of epic conventions—and ideological commentary expressed as deprecatory representations of...

  10. 7 Conclusions
    (pp. 181-202)

    This final chapter investigates the place of early modern Spanish counter-epic literature within European literary and social history. The first section points to significant similarities in the counter-epic poetics of Spanish, French, and British literature through the analysis of two representative texts: Scarron’s burlesque epic poem,Virgile travesti (Virgil Travestied), and the Shakespearean “problem play”Troilus and Cressida. The second section provides a summary of the many forms of counter-epic poetics found inDon Quijote—an exhaustive study of this topic would require another book—and begins to explore counter-epic poetics both as the final, modal phase of an exhausted...

  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 203-216)
  12. Index
    (pp. 217-224)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-225)