Colonial Encounters in New World Writing, 1500-1786 : Performing America book cover
1st Edition

Colonial Encounters in New World Writing, 1500-1786
Performing America

ISBN 9780415316071
Published November 10, 2005 by Routledge
288 Pages

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Book Description

Susan Castillo’s pioneering study examines the extraordinary proliferation of polyphonic or ‘multi-voiced’ texts in the three centuries following the first contact between Europeans and the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Taking a selection of plays, printed dialogues, travel narratives and lexicographic studies in English, Spanish and French, the book explores both European and indigenous writers of the early Americas. Paying particular attention to performance and performativity in the texts of the early colonial world, Susan Castillo asks:

  • why vast numbers of polyphonic and performative texts emerged in the Early Americas
  • how these texts enabled explorers, settlers and indigenous groups to come to terms with radical differences in language, behaviour and cultural practices
  • how dialogues, plays and paratheatrical texts were used to impose or resist ideologies and cultural norms
  • how performance and polyphony allowed Europeans and Americans to debate exactly what it meant to be European or American, or in some cases, both.

Tracing the dynamic enactment of (often conflictive) encounters between differing local narratives, Castillo presents polyphonic texts as not only singularly useful tools for exploring what initially seemed inexpressible or for conveying controversial ideas, but also as the site where cultural difference is negotiated. Offering unparalleled linguistic and historical range, through the analysis of texts from Spain, France, New Spain, Peru, Brazil, New England and New France, this volume is an important advance in the study of early American literature and the writings of colonial encounter.



Susan Castillo is John Nichol Professor of American Literature at Glasgow University. She is co-editor of The Literatures of Colonial America: An Anthology (2001) and a Companion volume to The Literatures of Colonial America (2005); she is Associate Editor of Journal of American Studies. She is a published writer of poetry and fiction, and is also a literary translator.


'The book covers an extraordinarily large and fascinating body of material produced in three languages over three centuries.  Few, if any, other scholars would have the knowledge to analyse such a range.  It’s written in a scholarly yet engaging fashion, which will make it both accessible to a large readership and authoritative within its field.' – Peter Hulme, University of Essex, UK

'Brilliant... this will be a terrific book.' – Thomas Scanlan, Ohio University, USA

'A landmark book that suceeds in bridging cultural, linguistic and disciplinary divides, and demonstrates the value of a comparative approach to American literary studies.' – American Studies

'[This book] attests to the vibrant state of contemporary scholarship in the once neglected area of American theater studies... Colonial Encounters in New World Writing brings together a valuable and impressive array of knowledge about drama and performance in the Spanish colonial era... It documents and makes accessible a history that has been unrecognized in English-dominated American Studies... Castillo brings a valuable theoretical perspective to this fascinating material... This book thus makes a unique and significant contribution to the understanding of cultural differences and interactions.' – William and Mary Quarterly

 'Castillo displays a daunting command of the literatures of the colonial Americas.... Castillo's own "American performance" is thus precisely what she calls others, "dazzling."' - Josh Bellin, Early American Literature

'Castillo's book is a lively and engaging, erudite and convincing account of an extrodinarily wide range of materials...Castillo's ability to make accesible to the non-specialist such a divergent selection of material should ensure this book's place on reading-lists for many a year to come' - Thea Pitman, MLR