Reading Landscapes through Texts and Oral Traditions in the Frontiers of Spanish America

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 10:30 AM
Salon 2 (Palmer House Hilton)
Cynthia Radding, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Language and history are closely entwined in both the processes of lived historical experience and in the acts of recovering those experiences through memory and interpreting their significance in the construction of historical narratives. In the historiographical conventions inherited from Western traditions of communicating knowledge, history is assumed to emerge from the production of narrative texts. Nevertheless, developments over recent decades have enriched the historian’s craft through interdisciplinary approaches from anthropology, art, literature, geography, and the performing arts, to consider the importance of images, oral storytelling, ritual, and the built environment as artifacts of history and the constitutive elements of a different kind of narrative. This paper contributes to the panel on “Frontiers of Language and History in the Early Modern Americas” by integrating the methodology of environmental history with the richly suggestive interplay of orality and written texts to explore the ways in which cultural landscapes were produced and different meanings attached to them, even within the colonial language of Spanish. It discusses the art of reading landscapes set in the borderlands of Spanish America, drawing principally from the author’s current research in primary sources for northwestern New Spain, with comparative references to the literature for the Spanish and Portuguese frontier regions of South America.
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