The Conundrums of Narrative: Cervantes in the Context of the Crónicas de Indias
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My intellectual interests span the Atlantic and are anchored in early modern narrative. Balancing original research, literary analysis and humanist literary criticism, my dissertation, “The Conundrums of Narrative: Cervantes in the Context of the Crónicas de Indias” attempts to bring a fresh understanding on the reciprocal relationship between emerging discourses of the New World and Spain –in particular, the kinds of narrative that coalesce into the (early) modern novel and the equally complex and imaginative forms of narrative on display in the Crónicas de Indias. My inquiry takes up two key sixteenth-century historiographical accounts of the Americas which include Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo’s Sumario de la natural historia de las Indias and Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s Historia verdadera de la conquista de la nueva España. I deploy these texts, which problematize the relationship of history to ‘poetry’ (a category which for early moderns included imaginative prose), to shed new light on the narrative strategies employed in Don Quixote and the Persiles. Along the way, I argue that the significant role that memory and mnemonics play in Cervantes’s imitation of literary models contributes to the epistemological and narratological concerns produced by the New World encounter, and I examine the use of memory in the construction of textual authority. For example: the first portion of my dissertation analyzes the writings of Juan Luis Vives (1492- 1540) as a means to explore the humanist thinking on the writing of history. Vives’ contribution to the practice and rhetoric of history allows me to examine difficulties and paradoxes posed by the interplay of history and poetry in Cervantes.