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Historia de la conquista de México: Grand Narrative of a New World Alexander

Luis, Diego Javier (2014)
Honors Thesis (130 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Patterson, Cynthia
Committee Members: Yannakakis, Yanna ; Otis, Laura
Research Fields: History, General; Literature, Comparative
Keywords: Alexander; Great; Cortés; America; Classical; Renaissance; Literature; History; Humanism; Narrative; Hero; Commemoration
Program: College Honors Program, History
Permanent url: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/g03m8

Abstract

Spanish humanist scholar Francisco L√≥pez de G√≥mara interpreted Hern√°n Cort√©s's conquest of Culh√ļa within the framework of the classical literary tradition. In Historia de la conquista de M√©xico (1552), L√≥pez de G√≥mara created his employer, Cort√©s, as a hero embodying traits of the canonical classical hero, Alexander. Convinced of the universal significance of the conquests, the Spanish humanist employed the most eloquent and rhetorically persuasive tools available to monumentalize his heroic Cort√©s for the ages. Naturally, he turned to his knowledge of the literature of antiquity for models of major, influential historical narratives. His Alexander-Cort√©s parallel and classical structural and rhetorical imitations indicate the revered position of the classical tradition during the Spanish Renaissance humanism movement. They are also conduits through which L√≥pez de G√≥mara challenged the opinions of his contemporaries, like Bartolom√© de las Casas, and justified conquest, subjugation, and conversion. His text created a new battleground in the raging literary war over memory of the conquests. His commemoration of Cort√©s and sympathy for Spanish imperialism have resulted in a polarized historiography for Historia de la conquista de M√©xico. Responses have ranged from a ban on printing and sale lasting nearly two centuries to William Prescott's romanticist expansion of Cort√©s's glory through History of the Conquest of Mexico. These reactions reinforce the ideological potency afforded by L√≥pez de G√≥mara's classically inspired text. This examination of the Spanish humanist within his literary and historical contexts reveals his recreation of reality through the lens of his classical education. The Alexander-Cort√©s parallel molds the Spanish conqueror into a heroic figure, a channel through which L√≥pez de G√≥mara immortalizes his interpretation of history.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Gambling with the High Ground .............................................................................1
Chapter 1: Conquest, Political Developments, and Humanism ........................................................12
Spanish Renaissance Humanism ..........................................................................................12
López de Gómara's Education (1523-1540) ...........................................................................18
Cortés and the Post-Death Scene ......................................................................................19
Chapter 2: Classical Conventions of Grand Narrative ..................................................................27
The Purpose of Writing History ..........................................................................................28
Emotional Essentialism .....................................................................................................36
Ethnography ..................................................................................................................40
The Supernatural ............................................................................................................48
Chapter 3: Evolution of the Classical Hero and the Alexander-Cortés Parallel ..................................55
Alexander as Archetype of the Classical Hero .......................................................................56
The Spaniards and Their Enemies ......................................................................................64
Conqueror as Colonizer ....................................................................................................72
Portraiture of Legendary Conquerors ..................................................................................76
Chapter 4: Legacy and Reception .........................................................................................82
Immediate Reactions ......................................................................................................83
Andrés González de Barcia and the First Resurrection of Francisco López de Gómara (1749) .........94
The Romanticists ...........................................................................................................96
Ramón Iglesia and the Second Resurrection of Francisco López de Gómara (1940) .....................104
Post-Quincentennial Reevaluation ....................................................................................106
Conclusion: Interpretive Allusion ..........................................................................................117
Bibliography .....................................................................................................................121

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