The Representation of the American Indian in the Comedia
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There exist less than thirty known comedias treating Spain's engagement with the New World. With access to the entire corpus, I analyse the genesis of the representative stereotype of the Indian, and trace its transposition from festival pageantry and allegorical iconography to the stage of the comedia. I relate scenes from the plays to works of triumphalist sculpture and the semiology of modem staged spectacle, and compare the sexual metaphor of the iconography of the First Encounter, with a similar tableau from the corpus. I then analyse the emblematic representation of female Indians in the corpus, and their role in securing the inscription of Spanish male "hegemony" and "closure". There follows a discussion of the role of the Devil in the deception of the Indians. I consider several plays in the light of research on the origins of ethnology, and discuss the extent to which the depiction of the Indians on stage can be ascribed to their idolatry and its rituals. I then analyse the plays' demonisation of native orality. The "performance" of the politico-religious Requerimiento, both in history and on the stage, is measured in literary terms against the "fetishisation" of Western writing in the Conquest, followed by an assessment of the interrogation of these issues by Lope de Vega according to the notion of his manipulation of rhetorical "politeness". Finally, I contrast the function of scenes of horror and violence perpetrated by Indians, with those carried out by Spaniards. I return to the topic of staged spectacle and analyse the use of such scenes in "serious" and then "burlesque" mode,as defined according to theories of genre within the comedia. I link this to "carnival humour", and apply this to the comic treatment of topics of cannibalism and mutilation involving the Indians, and ask how this informs upon their representation in the corpus as a whole.
AuthorsMcGrath, David John
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