Rewriting Columbus: Revisions in sixteenth- and twentieth-century historical and literary discourse
Columbus's texts of discovery and exploration initiate the written articulation of a European colonizing experience and the supposedly 'foundational' nature of these documents has led to the canonization of Columbus as the origin of the corpus of Latin American literature. Even today, as a cultural icon, Columbus remains an unavoidable figure, an indispensable trope, in short, the ineradicable symbol with which any inquiry into Latin American historical identity must come to terms. However, while Columbus may be seen as the foundation of a tradition of fixing American reality in discourse, he also remains elusive and masked: the Admiral's documents and biography have been vigorously debated and rewritten---copied, edited, arranged and falsified---by other historical figures The broad aim of this work is to investigate how and why a figure like Columbus and his historical experiences are textually constructed, by himself in his own private and public documents, and then reexamined and reconfigured by others not only in the context of the early period of colonial expansionism in Latin America but also in the context of contemporary fiction. The first two chapters offer an exploration into Columbus's strategies of self-representation and an analysis of the re-writings of Columbus's image by his contemporaries against the background of political and historical events and agendas of imperial expansion. The later chapters seek to establish how the historical figure of Columbus has been reappropriated and reinterpreted in contemporary fiction and how Columbian texts have been rewritten with revisionist, satirical, and political intentions By considering their own historical context of production, I examine how today's re-writings manipulate and give new meaning to Columbus's texts. In other words, these analyses address the question of how and why Columbus---or, indeed, other colonial figures---need to be reconstructed in a contemporary, post-colonial cultural context. What is the political, historiographic or cultural purpose of keeping these colonial figures alive in a state of animated dialogue and debate? By means of textual analysis of a selection of novels, I consider the critical practice of re-writing (and thereby reinterpreting) Columbus as a historical figure and the necessity of recreating and reevaluating the cultural significance of his life and achievements. There is a particular focus on the textual practice of re-writing in its various forms of quotation and imitation, parody and carnivalization, i.e. the recontextualization of Columbus in dialogic, anachronistic or comic contexts. Notions of intertextuality, metafiction, postmodernity and palimpsest give theoretical support to this inquiry. Furthermore, as we examine the juxtaposition of 'fictional' and 'historical' texts, both of these terms will require a critical evaluation: how do they differ, how are they related, and has a hegemonic form of historical discourse always provided the paradigm upon which Latin American fiction has been founded?