• Among the Cannibals and Amazons: Early German Travel Literature on the New World

    Samuel Roy Dunlap (see profile)
    German Literature and Culture, Renaissance / Early Modern Studies
    Cannibalism, Iconography, Amazons, Venezuela
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    University of California, Berkeley
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    In the wake of Christopher Columbus' first voyages of "discovery," the New World rapidly became the setting for European exploration and subsequent colonization. The Spanish and Portuguese established early claim to New World territories, and they were soon joined by representatives of other nationalities eager for a share in the perceived riches of the Americas. The least-known of these nationalities who claimed a piece of the New World are the Germans, the writings of whom form the subject of this investigation. The early German colony occupied much of present-day Venezuela, and its surviving literary remains consist of letters, a journal, and one work intended for publication. We will examine the works of these men, Titus Neukomm, Philipp von Hutten, and Nicolas Federmann, and particular emphasis will be given to how the New World lands and peoples are described. These descriptions will be compared with other contemporary sixteenth- and seventeenth-century travel narratives and we will discover recurring themes as well as the continual presence of the cannibal and Amazon figures. We will see that just as in the areas of art and iconography where visual motifs are freely exchanged, borrowed, and copied, literary motifs of the New World are similarly recycled, creating, in essence, variations on a theme. Just as the artistic and literary spheres share a common vocabulary of images and motifs, we will discover, too, that both art and literature serve to describe, depict, and define the self against the "other," the foreign, and the exotic.
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    3 years ago
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