Fall 2006

SOCS 641
Biculturalism, Border-Crossing, and Non-Conformism in the Age of Conquest

Armstrong Roche,Michael

09/11/2006 - 12/16/2006
Monday -

This course examines the diversity within Spanish (European, Christian) as well as Amerindian cultures at the time of the Conquest of America. Many Old and New World texts of the 16th century can be read as complex explorations of national, religious, ethnic, and personal identities, which were subjected to acute reexamination in a period of unprecedented migration; biological, economic, and cultural exchange; war; social transformation; and literary innovation. Identity assumes many forms here: multiple and sometimes divided allegiances, border-crossing, passing and disguise, conformist and nonconformist assimilation.

We will focus on four prominent themes as they appear in 16th-century history, jurisprudence, ethnography, fiction, and poetry: 1) biological and cultural mestizaje (mixing) presented as an ideal, as a curse, and as an amoral reality (the cases of dona Marina/La Malinche, Gonzalo Guerrero, Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, the Inca Garcilaso); 2) the discourse of barbarism and civilization or what it means to be fully human (the debate between Las Casas and Sepulveda, Vitoria's launching of international law, the ethnographic achievements of Sahagun and Acosta); 3) the struggle over the soul of the Church: Is Christianity inherited or acquired, in particular is it compatible with racist blood-purity statutes aimed at converted Jews and Muslims? (the cases of Fray Luis de Leon, Saint Theresa, Ignatius of Loyola, and the moriscos); and 4) the unstable boundary between the masculine and the feminine: Is anatomy destiny? (the cases of Saint Theresa, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, and the novelist Maria de Zayas).

Readings include Bernal Diaz, The Conquest of New Spain, tr. J.M. Cohen; John Elliott, Imperial Spain: 1469--1716; Rolena Adorno and Patrick Charles Pautz, eds., The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca. All remaining readings will be gathered in a course reader, including texts by major 16th-century historians, adventurers, jurists, ethnographers, mystics, poets, and writers of fiction--Cervantes and Maria de Zayas among them. In addition, viewings of films on Cabeza de Vaca and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz will be scheduled.

Students are expected to write 3 short papers (3-5 pp.), a fourth short position paper (1 p.), one longer final paper (10-15 pp.), and one oral presentation as a trial run for the final paper. Class participation includes twice preparing five (or so) discussion questions with a classmate, which should be submitted to the instructor at least one day in advance of the class meeting. The idea is to pick up the more interesting or controversial issues raised by the reading through the proposed questions. About half way through the course, the class will divide into two debating teams and reenact (creatively) the famous series of debates that took place between Las Casas and Sepulveda at Valladolid on the legitimacy of "just war" against (what we would call conquest of) the New World.

For the first class meeting, students should have read Edmundo O'Gorman's "The Invention of America," which is available in the course reader at PIP Printing.

A syllabus for this course is available at:

Michael Armstrong-Roche (B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Harvard University) is associate professor of Romance languages and literatures. He is author of Cervantes's Epic Novel: Empire, Religion, and the Dream Life of Heroes in 'Persiles' (forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press) and is now at work on a book devoted to Cervantes's plays. Click here for more information about Michael Armstrong-Roche.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Rolena Adorno, THE NARRATIVE OF CABEZA DE VACA (University of Nebraska Press), Paperback

Bernal Diaz, THE CONQUEST OF NEW SPAIN (Penguin Classics), Paperback

John Elliott, IMPERIAL SPAIN: 1469-1716 (Penguin), Paperback

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, THE ANSWER/LA RESPUESTA (The Feminist Press at the City University of New York), Paperback



PLEASE NOTE: A course packet is available for purchase at PIP Printing, 179 Main Street, Middletown, (860) 344-9001.

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