Alone in the Contact Zone: Speaking of Conquest in American Literature
Alpern, Emma, Department of English, University of Virginia
In La Relación, first published in 1542, Spanish conquistador Cabeza de Vaca relates his disastrous eight-year expedition to Florida. The text offers many depictions of encounters between native peoples and Europeans, and it is often cited as an unusually literary example of the relación genre. The disruptive moments of La Relación, in which Cabeza de Vaca encounters silent canoes, vacated American Indian villages, and other “marvelous” sites, resonate with the structure of Edgar Huntly. Charles Brockden Brown’s Gothic novel of 1799 is structured around similar interactions with reticent interlocutors, frustrated attempts at seamless narration, and ill-advised excursions into the wilderness. These plots conceal, and yet support, a familiar narrative of imperial discovery.
MA (Master of Arts)
Cabeza de Vaca, native peoples, Europeans
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