Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7d8f8d645b-r82c8 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-05-29T03:20:29.633Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

3 - Early Native American Literature and Hemispheric Studies

from Part I - Traces and Removals (Pre-1870s)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2020

Melanie Benson Taylor
Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
Get access


This chapter takes its cues from Leslie Marmon Silko’s epochal novel Almanac of the Dead in considering the themes of death and survival through transformation, both in the textual history and plot, of Native American literatures throughout the hemisphere. Focusing on the “epic” of Native American literature, the Maya Quiche Book of Counsel, the Popol vuh, the chapter begins by theorizing Native American literatures throughout the Western hemisphere as “writing” in alphabetical script that engages with non-alphabetical pre-Columbian forms of textuality; it proceeds by considering the themes of death, transformation, and survival in the plot of the Popol vuh in light of its textual history—from its pre-Columbian traditions, both hieroglyphic and iconographic, to its alphabetical Maya, Spanish, and ultimately English transmissions. It places particular emphasis on the colonial sociology of the production of the Popol vuh’s first alphabetical transcription in the sixteenth century and of its first Spanish translation during the eighteenth century in the context of mendicant missionary ethnography, which was originally invented as an instrument of ethnocide, namely the extirpation of “idolatry.”

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Barrenechea, Antonio. 2016. America Unbound: Encyclopedic Literature and Hemispheric Studies. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
Baudot, Georges. [1979] 1995. Utopia and History in Mexico: The First Chroniclers of Mexican Civilization. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.
Bauer, Ralph. 2001. “‘EnCountering’ Colonial Latin American Indian Chronicles: Guamán Poma de Ayala’s History of the ‘New’ World.American Indian Quarterly 25, 2 (Spring): 274312.
Bauer, Ralph. 2014. “Writing as ‘Khipu’: Titu Cusi Yupanqui’s Account of the Conquest of Peru.” In Cohen and Glover, Colonial Mediascapes, 325–56.
Bleichmar, Daniela. 2017. Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Brander Rasmussen, Birgit. 2012. Queequeg’s Coffin: Indigenous Literacies and Early American Literature. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Brander Rasmussen, Birgit. 2014. “The Manuscript, the Quipu, and the Early American Book: Don Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala’s Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno.” In Cohen and Glover, Colonial Mediascapes, 141–65.
Brokaw, Galen. 2010. A History of the Khipu. Cambridge Latin American Studies 94. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Brokaw, Galen. 2014. “Semiotics, Aesthetics, and the Quechua Concept of Quilca.” In Cohen and Glover, Colonial Mediascapes, 166202.
Brokaw, Galen, and Lee, Jongsoo, eds. 2016. Fernando De Alva Ixtlilxochitl and His Legacy. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Brooks, Joanna. 2003. American Lazarus: Religion and the Rise of African-American and Native American Literatures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Brooks, Lisa. 2008. The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Bross, Kristina. 2004. Dry Bones and Indian Sermons: Praying Indians in Colonial America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Brotherston, Gordon. 1979. Image of the New World: The American Continent Portrayed in Native Texts. London: Thames and Hudson.
Brotherston, Gordon. 1992. Book of the Fourth World: Reading the Native Americas through Their Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Burkhart, Louise M. 1989. The Slippery Earth: Nahua-Christian Moral Dialogue in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Campbell, Lyle. 1983. “Préstamos lingüisticos en el Popol Vuh.” In Nuevas perspectivas sobre el Popol Vuh, ed. Carmack, Robert and Santos, Francisco Morales, 8186. Guatemala: Editorial Piedra Santa.
Carmack, Robert, and Mondloch, James. 1983. El título de Totonicapán: texto, traducción y comentario. Mexico City: UNAM.
Carrasco, Davíd. 1999. City of Sacrifice: The Aztec Empire and the Role of Violence in Civilization. Boston: Beacon Press.
Cervantes, Fernando. 1994. The Devil in the New World: The Impact of Diabolism in New Spain. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Chonay, Dionisio José, and Goetz, Delia. 1953. Title of the Lords of Totonicapán. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Christenson, Allen. 2003. Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Maya. The Great Classic of Central American Spirituality. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Cohen, Matt, and Glover, Jeffrey, eds. 2014. Colonial Mediascapes: Sensory Worlds of the Early Americas. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Contreras, J. Daniel. 1963. “Temas y motivos bíblicos en las crónicas indígenas de Guatemala.Antropología e Historia de Guatemala 15: 4658.
D’Olwer, Luis Nicolau. 1952. Fray Bernadino de Sahagún (1499–1590). Mexico City: Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia.
Derrida, Jacques. 1976. Of Grammatology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Edmonson, Munro, ed. 1971. The Book of Counsel: The Popol Vuh of the Quiche Maya of Guatemala. New Orleans: Tulane University Press.
Forbes, Jack. 1987. “Colonialism and Native American Literature: Analysis.Wicazo Sa Review 3: 1723.
Freedberg, David. 2002. The Eye of the Lynx. Galileo, His Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Goubaud Carrera, Antonio. 1964. Indigenismo en Guatemala. Guatemala City: José de Pineda Ibarra.
Himelblau, Jack. 1989. Quiche Worlds in Creation: The Popol Vuh as Narrative Work of Art. Culver City, CA: Labyrinthos.
Jiménez Moreno, Wigberto. 1938. “Fray Bernadino de Sahagún y su obra,” introduction to Historia general de las cosas de la Nueva España, Vol. I, 19. Mexico City: Pedro Robredo.
Jiménez Moreno, Wigberto. 1974. Primeros memoriales de fray Bernadino de Sahagún. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.
Kobayashi, José Maria. 1974. La educación como conquista. Mexico: El Colegio de México.
Las Casas, Bartolomé de. 1942. Del Único Modo De Atraer a Todos Los Pueblos a La Verdadera Religión, ed. Agustín, Millares Carlo; trans. Santamaría Atenógenes. México: Fondo De Cultura Económica.
León-Portilla, Miguel. 1992. The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico. Boston: Beacon.
León-Portilla, Miguel. 1999. Bernadino de Sahagún, pionero de la antropología. Mexico City: UNAM.
Maffie, James. 2014. Aztec Philosophy: Understanding a World in Motion. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.
McKenzie, D. F. 1999. Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mignolo, Walter. 1997. The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality, and Colonization. 2nd edn. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Mills, Kenneth. 1997. Idolatry and Its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion and Extirpation, 1640–1750. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Morley, Sylvanus. 1950. Foreword to Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Ancient Quiché Maya, ed. and trans. Goetz, Delia and Morley, Sylvanus from the Spanish translation by Adrian Recinos. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Nelson, Dana. 1996. “‘(I Speak Like a Fool but I Am Constrained)’: Samson Occom’s Short Narrative and Economies of the Racial Self.” In Early Native American Writing: New Critical Essays, ed. Jaskoski, Helen, 4265. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nichols, Roger. 1998. Indians in the United States and Canada: A Comparative History. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Norton, Marcy. 2019. “The Quetzal Takes Flight: Microhistory, Mesoamerican Knowledge, and Early Modern Natural History.” In Translating Nature: Transcultural Histories of Early Modern Science, ed. Marroquín, Jaime and Bauer, Ralph, 119–47. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Oss, A. C. van. 1986. Catholic Colonialism: A Parish History of Guatemala, 1524–1821. Cambridge Latin American Studies 57. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Price, John. 1978. Native Studies: American and Canadian Indians. Toronto: McGraw-Hill.
Quiroa, Néstor. 2002. “Francisco Ximénez and the Popol Vuh: Text, Structure, and Ideology in the Prologue to the Second Treatise.Colonial Latin American Historical Review 11, 3 (Summer): 279300.
Quiroa, Néstor. 2011. “The Popol Vuh and the Dominican Religious Extirpation in Highland Guatemala: Prologues and Annotations of Fr. Francisco Ximénez.The Americas 67: 467–94.
Quiroa, Néstor. 2017. “Friar Francisco Ximénez and the Popol Vuh: From Religious Treatise to a Digital Sacred Book.Ethnohistory 64, 2: 241–70.
Rappaport, Joanne, and Cummins, Tom. 2012. Beyond the Lettered City: Indigenous Literacies in the Andes. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Ricard, Robert. 1966. The Spiritual Conquest of America: An Essay of the Apostolate and the Evangelizing Methods of the Mendicant Orders in New Spain, 1523–1572, trans. Simpson, Lesley Byrd, 3542. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Sahagún, Bernadino de. 1946. [compl. c. 1580]. Historia general de las cosas de la Nueva España. 3 vols., ed. Saignes, Miguel Acosta. Mexico City: Editorial Nueva España.
Scheiding, Oliver, ed. 2010. Native American Studies across Time and Space. Heidelberg: Winter.
Silko, Leslie Marmon. 1992. Almanac of the Dead: A Novel. New York: Penguin.
Smith, Claire, and Ward, Graeme, eds. 2000. Indigenous Cultures in an Interconnected World. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
Tedlock, Dennis. 1996a. Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life, trans. Dennis Tedlock. New York: Touchstone Books.
Tedlock, Dennis. 1996b. “Introduction.” In Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life.
Varey, Simon, Chabán, Rafael, and Weiner, Dora B., eds. 2000. Searching for the Secrets of Nature: The Life and Works of Dr. Francisco Hernández. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Weaver, Jace. 2007. “More Light Than Heat: The Current State of Native American Studies.American Indian Quarterly 32, 2: 233–55.
Wyss, Hilary. 2000. Writing Indians: Literacy, Christianity, and Native Community in Early America. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
Wyss, Hillary. 2012. English Letters and Indian Literacies: Reading, Writing, and New England Missionary Schools, 1750–1830. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Ximénez, Francisco. 17001703. Ayer MS1515. Chicago: Newberry Library.

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats