"Christopher Columbus." Photograph of a painting, Detroit Publishing Company circa 1908. Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880 - 1920, Library of Congress. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress: America's Story
Sometime after 1492, the concept of the New World or America came into being, and this concept appeared differently — as an experience or an idea — for different people and in different places. This semester, we will read three groups of texts: first, participant accounts of contact between native Americans and French or English speaking Europeans, both in North America and in the Caribbean and Brazil; second, transformations of these documents into literary works by contemporaries; third, modern texts which take these earlier materials as a point of departure for rethinking the experience and aftermath of contact. The reading will allow us to compare perspectives across time and space, across the cultural geographies of religion, nation and ethnicity, and finally across a range of genres — reports, captivity narratives, essays, novels, poetry, drama, and film. Some of the earlier authors we will read are Michel Montaigne, William Shakespeare, Jean de Léry, Daniel Defoe and Mary Rowlandson; more recent authors include Derek Walcott, and J. M. Coetzee.