Iberian Myths and American History in Balbuena’s El Bernardo

Authored by: Rodrigo Cacho Casal

The Routledge Companion to Iberian Studies

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415722834
eBook ISBN: 9781315709895
Adobe ISBN:


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Early modern authors born in Spain who spent part or most of their life in America seem to inhabit a critical limbo. The adscription of their literary works is often contested between cognate areas of study, particularly peninsular and colonial studies. First developed in nineteenth-century Latin America, colonial studies fostered the rediscovery of texts that allegedly embodied the spirit of the newly constituted countries. Nowadays identitarian readings are still at the core of the discipline, buttressed by the development of postcolonialism, ethnic and subaltern studies (Adorno 2011, 3–6). On the other hand, more traditional European methodologies, such as those fostered by Hispanic Philology, have tended to appropriate texts written in the colonies, ignoring the American substrate of their political discourse. Taken to the extreme, such dichotomies can lead to rather narrow intellectual debates. For instance, Alonso de Ercilla’s epic poem La Araucana (1569–89), which describes the clash between Spaniards and Mapuches, has often been regarded as mere continuation of European poetic codes or, conversely, as the embodiment of an early national identity upon which Chilean independentist claims would later rest.

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