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Imperial Poetics: the Cantares Mexicanos Across the Aztec and Spanish Empires

Date and Time: 
Monday, March 2, 2015. 06:00 PM - 08:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Humanities Center Boardroom
Meeting Description: 
The collection of Nahuatl song-poems known as the Cantares mexicanos highlights several issues to confront when thinking about the colonial American archive and Amerindian presences therein. The roots of the collection in the encounter between Mexica and Spanish cultural, linguistic, and aesthetic practices have generated intense scholarly debate about questions of dating and translation, but even more fundamentally, about the precise nature of the cantares. They have been read as manifestations of the lyrical and philosophical modes of Aztec culture (Garibay), instances of ghost-song ritual (Bierhorst), and songs whose origins in the Nahuatl language and the circumstances of performance imbue them with a specific form of immanence (Tomlinson). I am interested in the cantares as a material archive that traversed two empires. From forms of tribute sent to the center of Mexica power in Tenochtitlan, to objects of study for missionaries concerned with their ideological and linguistic utility, the Cantares mexicanos, I argue, comprise an archival differential whose relationship to two imperial projects evinces their distinct mechanics of poetic transferral and appropriation.
 
Caroline Egan is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature. She received her B.A. and M.A. from Penn State University. She has published in The Comparatist and Comparative Literature Studies, and is currently working on her dissertation, which proposes a theory of American orality rooted in early modern texts that countenance both indigenous American and European cultures.

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