Uniform Title"Compendious extracts of strange and memorable things": sixteenth-century compilations and the new world
NameYoung, Sandra M. (Sandra Michele) (author), Jehlen, Myra (chair), McKeon, Michael (internal member), Warner, Michael (internal member), Schalkwyk, David (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectEnglish, Literatures in,
Encyclopedias and dictionaries--16th century--History and criticism
DescriptionThe sixteenth-century compilation's encyclopaedic scope embraced widely diverse texts in accounting for the newly expanded world. I examine its representational methods for what they suggest of the period's habits of thought, and consider how these shape objects of knowledge. Michel Foucault's methodological tools facilitate a critique of epistemological constructions, but his characterizations of the sixteenth-century compilation as condemned "to never knowing anything but the same thing" do not adequately account for its contested meanings and shifts in form. I consider how Martin Waldseemüller deftly arranges disparate texts to authorize Vespucci's account of the New World and his map, announcing "America," managing the unsettling discrepancies between received knowledge and new ways of describing the world.
Compilations instructing in the "arte" of navigation (Taisnier, Cortés) invoke the mathematical number's abstractions in the face of shifting landscapes, demonstrating that "knowing" is caught up with "doing." I caution against reading backwards through imperial history, assuming epistemological certainties. In Sebastian Münster's Treatyse of the Newe India, the presence of human subjects troubles cosmographical certainties, while also providing objects of curiosity for natural history. The possibilities of knowing become both troubled and enabled through encounter, evident also in Cabot's instructions to explorers. I analyze relational terms (novel, ancient, strange, monstrous, "our," beastly, peculiar, gentle, humane, barbarous, infidel), as the basis of Europe's identifications. Richard Hakluyt's early compilations, Divers voyages and Principall Navigations, create the possibility of a nation-specific imperial identity, through the gathering of texts.
Close reading does not always bear out the rigidly temporal shifts identified by critics. While firsthand "experience" and "novelty" carry cachet, texts flaunting their novelty often echo existing texts. The ancients' authority remains an oft-cited method of authorizing disputed material, alongside methods considered new -- the mathematical number, instrumentation to measure the world, diagrammatic forms of representation (maps, astronomical charts) and narrative eye-witness accounts. The powerful critical methods of revisionist analysis warrant a recognition of the inevitably provisional nature of these abstractions and particularized investigations. Today as in the past, what we "know" to be "true" is a function of our institutional and political context. The coherence of our insights is always, inevitably, open to question.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 234-243).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.