A colonial cabinet of curiosities : Joseph Gumilla's Wunderkammer. El Orinoco ilustrado and the Rhetoric of Wonder
Ewalt, Margaret Russell, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Hill, Ruth, University of Virginia
Opere, Fernando, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Parshall, Karen, Department of Mathematics, University of Virginia
Weber, Alison, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Although the Jesuit Father Joseph Gumilla (1687-1750) is recognized as the first modern geographer and ethnographer of Venezuela, his work has not been studied from a literary standpoint, with an appreciation of his rhetorical technique or the tensions between its varied discourses. This dissertation examines three interrelated facets of wonder (admiratio)--the rhetorical, the theological and the scientific--in Gumilla's natural history and account of evangelization efforts, El Orinoco ilustrado y defendido: Historia natural, civil y geografica de este gran río y de sus caudalosas vertientes (1741-45), and places this under-valued text within the history of these three disciplines as well as within the discourse of the marvelous New World.
Chapter One, "Sources, Concepts and Structures of Father Gumilla's Rhetoric of Wonder," reviews key classical rhetorical sources and strategies. Gumilla preached to the eyes of his readers. He employed demonstrative discourse, exploiting hypotyposis, or ecphrasis to illustrate the Orinoco region with vivid word-pictures and evoke wonder. Chapter Two, "El Orinoco ilustrado as Textual Wunderkammer," argues that Gumilla chose to frame his text as a wonder chamber, or cabinet of curiosities. Gumilla arranged awesome animals, vegetables and minerals in a climactic order. His showcase of marvels benefited greatly from rhetorical strategies for amplification. Because no critical study of the Wunderkammer has emerged from within Colonial Hispanism, this study borrows theoretical frameworks from art history and the history of science. Chapter Three, "God's Wonders and the Missionary's Ethos," clarifies the ties between Wunderkammern displays and the power and prestige of Spanish imperial possession. Father Gumilla's understanding of the admiration➯scientia paradigm (from wonder grows all knowledge) ultimately aimed to direct his readers' wonder toward God. Chapter Four, "Scientific Admiratio and Eclecticismo in El Orinoco ilustrado," demonstrates how Gumilla did not subscribe to a single philosophical system for natural philosophy. He emphasized experience and direct observation alongside his study of ancient and modern philosophers of nature (físicos). Gumilla did not attempt to establish unyielding universals (a system of physics), but instead took from several systems what he considered true and wrote his history of the Orinoco region in the same spirit.
Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Gumilla, Joseph, -1750., Orinoco ilustrado .
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)