- Creole Subjects in the Colonial Americas: Empires, Texts, Identities
Just as one may point to Herbert E. Bolton’s Wider Horizons of American History (1939) as the foundational text that launched the first comparative works on the Americas and ensuing debate on the viability of studies encompassing both hemispheres, it may be argued that the 2002 Early Ibero/ Anglo Americanist Summit in Tucson, Arizona, marked another turning point in the field. The summit, which was designed as an opportunity for “first contact” between scholars of early Ibero-American and early British American studies (particularly scholars within literature departments without a strong interdisciplinary tradition), generated great enthusiasm. A good number of publications and meetings followed the gathering and have kept [End Page 314] up the momentum in what we call comparative early American literary studies, or, more recently, comparative Americas, a term that encompasses a greater diversity of scholarship. Creole Subjects in the Americas, a collection of seventeen essays primarily by literary scholars, originated from the summit in Tucson, during which the topic of creole identities was often raised as a promising area for comparative research. It was worth the wait. We now have a first collective effort that “is concerned less with the actual cultural processes of creolization . . . that have occupied historians and anthropologists than with the idea of the creole (and of creolization) . . . as an imperialist discourse of colonial difference” (7). The essays respond to Ralph Bauer and José Antonio Mazzotti’s invitation for scholars to treat early modern discourse on creolization and the creole subject as categories of study as well as topics for comparative literary analysis within and across the literatures of colonial Americas.
Bauer and Mazzotti’s introduction provides an enlightening discussion of the words and related terms used in the full title of the book. Starting with the origin and changes in meanings of the term “creole” and including pejorative perspectives on the process of “creolization,” the authors go on to discuss the trouble with the adjective “colonial,” the creoles’ ambiguous “identities” and social status under different “empires,” the surge of a “creole consciousness,” and distinct “creole subjectivities” in the Americas. The authors also acknowledge that the collection limits itself to the Iberian and British colonial worlds and convincingly invite others to take advantage of their work to introduce French and Dutch materials into the discussion. The emphasis on creole terminology in the introduction is very useful for reading the essays and will certainly be of great help for teachers of colonial Americas. A timetable of relevant events associated with the publication dates of key texts (particularly those analyzed in the book) would have advanced the comparatist goals of the book even further.
Any reader of Creole Subjects in the Americas will appreciate the shrewd analysis of texts from the early chronicles of colonization through early nineteenth-century literature, including poems, drama, novels and historiography, from British, Spanish, Portuguese, creole, and Andean authors. The result is a collection of essays that presents a wide range of perspectives on creole subjects and creolization. These diverse perspectives emerge not only from the textual evidence but also from the variety of approaches the authors take to reveal the presence and significance of creole issues in texts that do not treat the subject matter directly. Take, for instance, the first and second essays of the collection. In the first essay, “Cannibalism, the Eucharist, and Criollo Subjects,” Carlos Jáuregui reads Sor Juana’s Eucharistic plays as [End Page 315] speaking of a “creole consciousness” when he analyzes how the poet explores the uncanny resemblance between cannibalism and the Christian Eucharist. In the second essay, “Sons of the Dragon; or, The English Hero Revived,” David Shields explains English narratives of expansionism by pointing out the importance of the so-called Black Legend of Spanish imperialism in Protestant ideology of the time. In this context, the English hero becomes a liberator of oppressed peoples including, of course, the creoles.
The volume also offers essays that...