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Constructing Authority: The Classical Tradition and the Rise of Empiricism

Questions

  • On what does Oviedo base his authority as a writer of history? What role did personal experience play in his claims to be a reliable source of knowledge?
  • What models did he employ to write his chronicle?
  • Do you agree with Andrea Frisch that 'firsthand experience is, of course, the defining characteristic of the eyewitness account of the New World'?
  • Do you agree with Pagden’s claim that in the early modern era ‘knowledge, science, precisely does not consist of untutored empirical observation’ (Fall of Natural Man, 130)?

Primary Sources

  • Fernández de Oviedo, Gonzalo, Fernández de Oviedo's Chronicle of America: A New History for a New World, ed. Kathleen Myers and trans. by Nina M. Scott, University of Texas Press (Austin, 2007), appendix C.
  • Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, in Encompassing Nature: A Sourcebook, ed. Robert M. Torrance, Counterpoint (Washington D.C., 1998), pp. 498-503. (The complete natural history is available online at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Plin.+Nat.+toc.)


Additional Secondary Readings

 
On Experience and Models of Historical Writing

  • Adorno, Rolena, 'The Discursive Encounter of Spain and America: The Authority of Eyewitness Testimony in the Writing of History', William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 49:2 (1992).
  • Barrera-Osorio, Antonio, Experiencing Nature: The Spanish American Empires and the Early Scientific Revolution, University of Texas Press (Austin, 2006), chapter 5: Books of Nature. Scholars, Natural History and the New World.
  • Benedict, Barbara M., Curiosity: A Cultural History of Early Modern Inquiry, University of Chicago Press (Chicago: 2001)
  • Cañizares Esguerra, Jorge, How to Write the History of the New World
  • Dear, Peter, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and its Ambitions, 1500-1700, Palgrave (Basingstoke, 2001), Chapter 1 and 2.
  • Frisch, Andrea, The Invention of the Eyewitness: Witnessing and Testimony in Early Modern France, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, 2004).
  • Keneth, Joy (ed.), The Ages of the Marvelous, Hood Museum of Art (Hannover, 1991).
  • Leonard, Irving A., Books of the Brave: Being an Account of Books and of Men in the Spanish Conquest and Settlement of the Sixteenth-Century New World, University of California Press (Berkeley, 1992).
  • Lupher, David, Romans in a New World: Classical Models in Sixteenth-Century Spanish America, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, 2003).
  • Rabassa, José, Inventing America: Spanish Historiography and the Formation of Eurocentrism, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, 1993.

On Oviedo

  • Barrera-Osorio, Antonio, Experiencing Nature: The Spanish American Empires and the Early Scientific Revolution, University of Texas Press (Austin, 2006), chapter 5.
  • Brading, David, Brading David, The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots and the Liberal State, 1492-1867, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 1991).
  • Brokaw, Galan, ‘Ambivalence, Mimicry, and Stereotype in Fernández de Oviedo's Historia general y natural de las Indias, Colonial Discourse and the Caribbean Areíto’, The New Centennial Review 5.3 (2005) 143-165
  • Gerbi, Antonello, Nature in the New World from Christopher Columbus to Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, 1985).
  • Myers, Kathleen A., ‘History, Truth and Dialogue: Fernández de Oviedo's Historia general y natural de las Indias (Bk XXXIII, Ch LIV)’, Hispania, vol. 73, No. 3 (1990), pp. 616-625
  • Myers, Kathleen A., ‘The Representation of New World Phenomena: Visual Epistomology and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo’s Illustrations’, Early Images of the Americas: Transfer and Invention, eds. Jerry Williams and Robert Lewis, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, 1993).