The poetics of demonization : the writings of Juan de Castellanos in the light of Alonso de Ercilla's Le araucana
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In this dissertation I offer an analysis of the ideological significance of Juan de Castellanos' writings in light of the epic model provided by Alonso de Ercilla's La Araucana. My main goal is to demonstrate that, unlike Ercilla, Castellanos embraced and manipulated the resources at the disposal of epic poets not only to praise the deeds and defend the rights of the first wave of colonists, but also to challenge the policies of Hapsburg monarchs concerning the administration of the recently established Viceroyalties in the New World. Hence, this dissertation aims to foreground the complexities and ambiguities of a text that bears evidence of an internal ideological fissure that significantly shaped Spain’s political and territorial expansion and contributed to the emergence of a new type of literature. If epic, as has been persuasively argued by Elizabeth B. Davis "was invaluable to the ruling circles of the imperial monarchy, who used it to forge a sense of unity and to script cultural identities during the period of expansion and conquest" (10), then the heroic poems written by Castellanos on behalf of the conquistadors and encomenderos represent the boldest attempt to turn the most prestigious vehicle of Spanish imperial propaganda, epic poetry, into a tool for the expression of colonial political concerns, a project which included but was not limited to the deployment of aggressive practices of poetic imitation, the expression of a new sense of selfhood, and the demarcation of a new sense of patriotism. Nevertheless, from its inception Castellanos' project was also plagued by many contradictions, most of which are the result of his nostalgia for the values and practices commonly associated with the warrior nobility of the feudal era, and by the constraints imposed by simultaneously having to point to and erase the trace of Ercilla's text.