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Discourses of Empire

Counter-Epic Literature in Early Modern Spain

Barbara Simerka

Publication Year: 2003

The counter-epic is a literary style that developed in reaction to imperialist epic conventions as a means of scrutinizing the consequences of foreign conquest of dominated peoples. It also functioned as a transitional literary form, a bridge between epic narratives of military heroics and novelistic narratives of commercial success. In Discourses of Empire, Barbara Simerka examines the representation of militant Christian imperialism in early modern Spanish literature by focusing on this counter-epic discourse.Simerka is drawn to literary texts that questioned or challenged the imperial project of the Hapsburg monarchy in northern Europe and the New World. She notes the variety of critical ideas across the spectrum of diplomatic, juridical, economic, theological, philosophical, and literary writings, and she argues that the presence of such competing discourses challenges the frequent assumption of a univocal, hegemonic culture in Spain during the imperial period. Simerka is especially alert to the ways in which different discourses-hegemonic, residual, emergent-coexist and compete simultaneously in the mediation of power. Discourses of Empire offers fresh insight into the political and intellectual conditions of Hapsburg imperialism, illuminating some rarely examined literary genres, such as burlesque epics, history plays, and indiano drama. Indeed, a special feature of the book is a chapter devoted specifically to indiano literature. Simerka's thorough working knowledge of contemporary literary theory and her inclusion of American, English, and French texts as points of comparison contribute much to current studies of Spanish Golden Age literature.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

My interest in literary representations of discourses questioning militaristic and imperial ideologies began in 1992, as I battled conflicting desires to finish my dissertation and to become involved in the largely unreported peace movement that arose during “Operation Desert Storm,” the first Persian Gulf...

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1 Toward a Materialist Poetics of Counter-Epic Literature

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pp. 1-14

Discourses of empire appear in artistic, political, and theological writings of every genre in circulation in early modern Spain—from Lascasian critiques of forced conversion and genocide to the explications of Roman law by three generations of jurists who sought legal validation of Spain’s right to the territory...

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2 “So That the Rulers Might Sleep Without Bad Dreams”: Imperial Ideology and Practices

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pp. 15-38

As Philip Mason has observed, imperialist societies require an ideology that permits both the colonizer and the colonized to accept imperial power relations as the natural order—an ideology that provides restful nights for the rulers. 1 Conventional analyses of early modern Spanish society and its cultural formations...

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3 Liminal Identity and Polyphonic Ideology in Indiano Drama

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pp. 39-76

The celebration (or condemnation) of the quincentennial anniversary of the first European encounter with America gave rise to a reconsideration of Columbus’s legacy and a much-needed examination of the comedia’s representation of the New World and its inhabitants. This examination, however, tended...

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4 The Early Modern History Play as Counter-Epic Mode: Cervantes’s La destrucción de Numancia and Lope de Vega’s Arauco domado

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pp. 77-128

Cervantes’s La destrucción de Numancia (The Destruction of Numancia) and Lope de Vega’s Arauco domado (Arauco Conquered) , which dramatize imperial battles fought at Numancia in the second century a.d. and in sixteenth century Chile, are the best-known and most widely studied examples of counter...

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5 The Novelistic History Play: Rojas Zorrilla’s Numancia Diptych and González de Bustos’s Los españoles en Chile

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pp. 129-160

The dramatization of Spain’s Roman period as presented in Rojas Zorrilla’s diptych, Numancia cercada (Numancia Under Siege) and Numancia destruida (Numancia Destroyed) , constitutes not only a counter-epic history play as described in Chapter 4 but also a reinscription of the Cervantine drama upon the...

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6 “War and Lechery”: La gatomaquia and the Burlesque Epic

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pp. 161-180

According to Gregory Colomb, the parody of epic literary conventions functions as “propaganda” for discrediting aristocratic privilege, which is often grounded in the glorification of military heroism associated with epic literature...

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7 Conclusions

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pp. 181-202

This final chapter investigates the place of early modern Spanish counterepic literature within European literary and social history. The first section points to significant similarities in the counter-epic poetics of Spanish, French...

Works Cited

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pp. 203-216


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pp. 217-224

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271052816
E-ISBN-10: 0271052813
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271027944
Print-ISBN-10: 0271027940

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2003