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Deixis and Iberian Empire

Posted By Elizabeth Spragins, Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Updated: Friday, June 3, 2016

In the prologue to the Historia natural y moral de las Indias, José de Acosta notes that he wrote the first two volumes in Peru and the other five in Europe, and therefore “some talk of the things of the Indies as present and others as absent”. He explains that he wished to warn readers of this “diversity of speaking” so that it would not “offend” their sensibilities. Acosta’s prologue points to the complex nature of deictic references--markers of time and place like “here,” “there,” “now,” “this,” and “then”--in the context of Iberian empire. With the rapid expansion of the Spanish and Portuguese monarchies during the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries and the consequent movements of writers and texts across vast territories, the here’s and now’s of literary practice could become entangled and confused--at times accidentally, at times deliberately and strategically. This panel seeks papers that grapple with the complex nature of time and place as understood through the literature of Iberian empire. How do deictic markers become moments through which we can understand the expansion, practice and administration of empire? At what points and why do writers of Iberian empire choose to either collapse or emphasize the broad temporal and geographical expanse of Iberian empires? How are indicators of time and place used in relation to eyewitnessing or authority when treating places and events to which most readers would not be privy? Although the panel has been initially conceived to treat Iberian Empire, we welcome proposals related to other empires of the early modern period.

Suggested approaches:

Temporal and spatial collapse through text

Simultaneity of places and time

Administration of empire

Traveling people and written documents

Reproduction of experience

Witnessing and authority

Please send a 1-page CV and an abstract of no more than 150 words to Elizabeth Spragins ( and Rachel Stein ( by June 5.  See the guidelines for CVs on the RSA’s annual meeting page.

Tags:  early modern  Early Modern Spain  Iberia  Literature  space  time  Transatlantic  travel 

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