Guided by a rhetorical reading of the missiological treatise De unico vocationis modo (ca. 1534), this article contends that Bartolomé de las Casas crafts key representations in his monumental Apologética historia sumaria (1559) to evoke wonder, judiciously accentuated throughout the text as a positive emotion. Exploiting the rhetoric of the marvelous to bring out the positive affectivity inherent in aesthetic pleasure, moral goodness, and spiritual elation, the Apologética seeks to foster in the reader an affective proximity to an otherwise distant and unknown Amerindian world. Ultimately, these pleasing representations of Amerindian wonders are meant to serve as catalysts for a process of conversion in the reader, meaning a spiritual reorientation in favor of indigenous peoples very much like the one Las Casas himself experienced in 1514. Wonder becomes the starting point, not for a first philosophy or for a politics of fear, domination, and possession, but for an ethics of proximity.


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pp. 309-331
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