Roland Greene
Todd III
click here for the main site portal

New World Studies and the Limits of National Literatures

For several years now, I have taught a course entitled New World Poetics, in which the readings include a number of early modern European texts about the Americas, contemporaneous writings representing influential discourses of the same moment that often intersect with representations of the new world (e.g., Petrarch, More, Machiavelli), and an array of modern and postmodern responses—from Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and the United States—to European definitions of American reality. The course presents itself as an investigation into how American identity is realized through the intersections of events, writings, and large-scale systems of thought, and assembles its own comparative account of ideologies such as utopianism, genres such as the love lyric, and works such as The Tempest. It would be possible to approach this material in a number of different ways, but I have deliberately treated it in view of the negotiations between world-views rather than authors, discrete texts, or national traditions. In practice this means that the course entails some of the attention to local reading that figures in most literary study, but avoids the familiar trajectory of purpose toward conclusions about authors and their works. Instead, the emphasis typically falls on discursive currents that move through several texts and traditions, on the inflection of one standpoint by another, and on transhistorical dialogues over formative new world issues carried out across differences of race, language, institution, and nation. To put it another way, the course adapts an approach modelled on cultural studies to materials that, especially in the early modern phase of the readings, are almost uniformly the canonical products of social elites. New World Poetics depends on a certain dissonance between its objects and its methods—the former brought together out of several available national and regional canons (such as early modern European, colonial Latin American, and modern and postmodern United States and Latin American literatures), the latter placing a context on the materials that emphasizes less their sheer authority than their participation in broad cultural negotiations that overgo linguistic and national boundaries.

The import of New World Poetics, I believe, is that it represents a provisional model for the redisciplining of literature. The standing organization of knowledge that we now see in the United States academy typically includes a number of departments of national literatures, some interdisciplinary programs oriented to area studies, perhaps an interdisciplinary department or program treating minority U.S. cultures, and—in fewer than a hundred colleges and universities nationwide—a department called comparative literature, which often has the mission of moving among the others according to a protocol that has been very much in dispute among comparatists themselves.1   In most places, the loosening hold of these arrangements can be readily seen: in the increasingly problematic "national" frame around literary curricula, in the reach of departments of English to encompass ever-wider canons, in the rise of cultural studies as a catch-all venue for those approaches not being addressed elsewhere. I take it as axiomatic that these institutional arrangements are not irremediably flawed—that national contexts, for instance, should belong to the study of literature and culture without determining everything about it. I believe that these arrangements are with us to stay, and that some of the most obvious responses to the changing climate in the humanities, such as renaming departments to endorse cultural studies explicitly, actually leave open the difficult questions of how the available models interact with each other. How might these models be renewed, not singly or competitively, but together?

Imagine that several departments and programs in a given institution collaborated to identify certain objects of study that emerge out of several national histories and literatures without being fully explainable by any of them; and imagine that one of these is a loose canon of writing and other kinds of cultural production called—for lack of a better label—new world studies. In its early modern phase, new world studies is configured as a many-sided dialogue including the texts of the European discoveries in the Americas starting with Columbus and Cabral as well as surviving indigenous materials that predate the conquests; it continues through the many-sided arguments around the matter of imperialism by Las Casas, Vitoria, López de Gómara, Léry, and Raleigh; and embraces those sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts that represent answers to European imperialism from standpoints in different degrees of disengagement from it, such as indigenous, creole, and mestizo writing. In fact, the name "new world studies" only approximates a description of something that depends on the recognition of different cultures, societies, and "worlds" in contact: the epithet "new world," with its implied consciousness of plural world-views accessible through a single textual outlet, stands for this recognition. Mary Louise Pratt has described the poetics of the "contact zone" in terms that might be a charter for new world studies:

    How are metropolitan modes of representation received and appropriated on the periphery? That question engenders another perhaps more heretical one: with respect to representation, how does one speak of transculturation from the colonies to the metropolis? The fruits of empire, we know, were pervasive in shaping European domestic society, culture, and history. How have Europe's constructions of subordinated others been shaped by those others, by the constructions of themselves and their habitats that they presented to the Europeans? Borders and all, the entity called Europe was constructed from the outside in as much as from the inside out. Can this be said of its modes of representation?2

For new world studies the contact zone is not only the literal places of cultural encounter, but the concatenated spaces where worlds—that is, intellectual or spiritual systems represented by versions through which they can be understood or evaluated—move into critical relation with each other; the coming into play of the term and the concept of "world" is vital to the enterprise.3 Likewise to Pratt and perhaps even more ambitiously, in a little noticed essay of 1989, José Piedra argued for an "anthropoetical" project of recovering indigenous perspectives in the major texts and artifacts of the imperialist canon: his purpose, he suggested, was "to define the subversive participation of native 'finds' and of the native critical 'I' in the elusive symbolic linkage and material exchange within the colonial text. To that effect, I consider Columbus's texts not only as a legacy of the original scene of arrival but also as a flawed but 'unique' record of a two-way encounter."4  And most recently, writing of modern poetry, Charles Bernstein has insisted that

    the cultural space of [the Americas] is not carved up by national borders or language borders but transected by innumerable overlaying, contradictory or polydictory, traditions and proclivities and histories and regions and peoples and circumstances and identities and families and collectivities and dissolutions—dialects and idiolects, not National Tongues; localities and habitations, not States.

    But such an America is imaginary, for everywhere the local is under fire from the imposed standard of a transnational consumer culture and undermined by the imperative to extract it and export it as product.5

Pratt's, Piedra's, and Bernstein's projects belong at the heart of new world studies, in which mutually critical standpoints are found to inhabit each other and to fashion new worlds, or "new" "worlds." Together they remind us that students of new world cultures are obliged to develop both small-gauge means of identifying ideological and rhetorical traces from diverse sources, and wide-angle terms, such as Pratt's contact zone, that traverse the limits of national and regional literatures.

Seen from the perspective of the several national literatures involved, most of the works that go into this factitious canon may seem to tell a story that can be assimilated into the various narratives of conquest by Spain, Portugal, England, and so forth, and thus to join available national canons easily enough. But seen together, where national identity becomes no more than one factor among many, and where their common preoccupations come clear, these works take on a profoundly different character: that of a tradition with something of the coherence and urgency of a national literature, but defined in every instance not by a single shared origin in society or language but by a relation to a multivalent, transhistorical process occurring in the settlement and acculturation of the Americas by Europe and the ensuing exchange of cultural material in both directions, continued to the present day in locations as different as contemporary Spain, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. In this light new world studies is founded on a multinational canon, including the aforementioned colonial texts as well as Martí's Nuestra América, Machado de Assis's Memorias póstumas de Brás Cubas, Toomer's Cane, Williams's In the American Grain, and Stein's The Making of Americans. Imagine, too, that these collaborating departments understood new world studies not as built on a genre or a theme (especially not the latter, the death rattle of anything that was once exciting in literary studies), but as an open-ended occasion for disciplinary renewal. One provisional analogy is to the identity-oriented approach to new social movements articulated by a number of social scientists over the last twenty-five years: recent scholarship on these movements proposes that they be examined not according to a static, conventional approach through their collective goals and interests and their involvement with institutions to which they have oblique relations anyway, but in view of the identities they construct for themselves and live out in a particular terrain.6   Like the study of new social movements, new world studies can be understood as a criticism of the (in this case, period- and nation-based) discipline out of which it arises, generated by the discipline itself out of a spontaneous recognition of its own limitations: a sudden, alternative way of seeing that insists on collating the histories and cultures of old and new worlds in an alternative terrain, namely the synthetic, mutually defining places of the European-inflected Americas and the American-inflected Europe. We might ask, adapting from the sociologist Manuel Castells, "how do structurally defined actors produce and reproduce [the new world] through their conflicts, dominations, alliances, and compromises" on both social and textual grounds?7

In a sense this is to propose updating the academic model called Renaissance studies, which came into existence as an early interdisciplinary field and continues in a few places, notably Yale, to produce period specialists with a multidimensional training. But Renaissance studies has been much more period- than process- or place-centered, and its operative notion of worlds and worldmakings has tended to take the period as a unitary world already made rather than several ones in process then and now. In another sense, I might be taken as proposing a version of the new historicism, but one that is genuinely comparative; that treats contexts other than the courtly and the national as definitive of cultural experience; that considers place with something of the seriousness that the new historicism accords to temporal development or history; that relaxes the strong narratives of new historicist work in favor of a plurivocal account that allows many sides to speak their versions of the long-running historical process of exchange between languages, societies, and worlds. While it may be suggested that new world studies is a redaction of either Renaissance studies or the new historicism or both, I tend to think that these constructions would have to be changed so thoroughly to produce the model I describe that they would become unrecognizable; they are perhaps the existing orders that make necessary the alternative embodied in new world studies. Moreover, the choice between the constructions now called Renaissance studies and the new historicism vividly illustrates an important feature of what would be new world studies, namely that despite the label I assign it, it is neither an academic subdiscipline nor a school of thought but a set of practices around a multifarious object that inflects the existing disciplines with a challenge to their protocols and assumptions. New world studies insists on our reading with a double consciousness even those texts that have seemed fully accountable within the unitary horizon of a conventional field such as early modern European or colonial Latin American literature, and demands that this consciousness be brought to texts and objects that have fallen outside the limits of such conventions. Where both Renaissance studies and the new historicism have tended to take their designated worlds as givens, new world studies throws into relief the event or process of worldmaking itself as both a cultural and a critical procedure, loosening the hold of what is received or naturalized in literary studies and installing a multiplicity of fresh international linkages.

Moreover, one of the most compelling dimensions of what I am calling new world studies is the fact that it is a transhistorical phenomenon, for which the period of discovery, exploration, and colonialism is an indispensable prologue to later events but not a closed fact in itself. A striking outgrowth of recent studies in Renaissance literature has been the growing investments by conventionally trained scholars in studies of contemporary culture, as though a grounding in the ideologies and structures of humanism leads inevitably into its present-day versions or counter-versions. When I was a graduate student pursuing a fairly traditional program centered in Renaissance literature fifteen years ago, I believed in a way that I could scarcely articulate—and it seems now that I was hardly the only member of my generation to feel this—that the study of the period was in some danger of adopting a faulty historicism that cut it off from adjacent periods, let alone distant ones such as the present day; too many scholars of that moment seemed locked into a conception of the Renaissance as a closed, self-regulating event instead of a provisional category that could help us to see certain things and perhaps hinder us in recognizing others. Early and late I have had more than my share of the sort of colleagues who profess that they are not interested in anything about the Middle Ages, or the eighteenth century, or even the later seventeenth century (one actually drew the line at 1603), because they are, after all, Renaissance scholars. The final reduction of this position comes out in a phrase that finds its way into any number of books and essays: "the English Renaissance," a reification of the fact that the Renaissance took hold in England among other places. Here the categories of period and nation catch the field between them and shake out anything international (which would seem to cancel the whole idea of the Renaissance), multicultural, or transhistorical. What is left is an exaggeratedly clean and contained period—nothing out of the stock narrative, nothing unexplainable in specifically English terms, but much, perhaps everything, out of proportion.

But a certain segment of early modern scholarship—represented by Carla Freccero, Stephanie Jed, Nancy Vickers, and several others—has become interested in the proposition that this is not so much a closed historical period as a scripting of future possibilities for aesthetics, politics, philosophy, and social reality. According to this view, to study the Renaissance is to regard the present from a historicist angle, to use the past as a way of provisionally addressing the question of how we got here. And some of the most rigorous usages of this kind of transhistoricism have been in the area of what I am calling new world studies, where scholars prepared in the traditional fields of colonial or modern Latin American literature, or Golden Age Spanish, or Renaissance English non-dramatic literature, have found themselves moving backward or forward in history as well as across national and cultural boundaries in order to assemble and pass along to their students and readers a more complete picture of their topic than they received from their forerunners. As Renaissance studies has metamorphosed for some of us into new world studies, the scope of our attention has become necessarily broader, and brought about a propitious alliance with contemporary cultural studies, to which many early modern scholars might otherwise be imagined as opposed—and in fact, many remain uninvolved. It is almost as though the "new" in new world studies, like that in new social movements, refers implicitly to the disciplinary renovations that produced it as much as to the innovations of its object.

The obvious analogy to a model closer at hand is with postcolonial studies, which has coalesced over the last twenty years to become a catalytic force in several disciplines at once. At its best, postcolonial studies stands for something very much like what I am envisioning, a nuanced, multivalent discussion of colonial as well as postcolonial materials in a historically and politically responsible fashion. But as its name indicates, postcolonial studies tends to work its way to the past in reaction to the present, with its historical and other accounts of the colonial past often a brilliant back-formation; scores of colonial historians, literary scholars, and others remain unengaged in the discussions around postcolonial work in tacit recognition of this presentist orientation. Moreover, postcolonial scholarship often implies a narrative to which its materials are fitted, and several key terms in that narrative typically bear a large share of conceptual weight: witness the editors of a recent anthology who propose a definition that would be incoherent if not for such a narrative, arguing that postcolonial studies treats "experience of various kinds: migration, slavery, suppression, resistance, representation, difference, race, gender, place, and responses to the influential master discourses of imperial Europe such as history, philosophy, and linguistics, and the fundamental experiences of speaking and writing by which all these come into being." As the field called postcolonial studies expands, in fact, it stands to lose the clarity of that narrative and by the same measure to gain in explanatory diversity. But notice that for the same editors, the prospect is ominous:

    Like the description of any other field the term [postcolonial] has come to mean many things, as the range of extracts in this Reader indicates. However we would argue that post-colonial studies are based in the "historical fact" of European colonialism, and the diverse material effects to which this phenomenon gave rise. We need to keep this fact of colonisation firmly in mind because the increasingly unfocused use of the term "post-colonial" over the last ten years to describe an astonishing variety of cultural, economic and political practices has meant that there is a danger of losing its effective meaning altogether. Indeed the diffusion of the term is now so extreme that it is used to refer to not only vastly different but even opposed activities.8

For a ground-clearing operation such as new world studies, by contrast, there are any number of "opposed activities" that might belong together under the single rubric. The recovery of a fully elaborated cultural history around the facts of conquest and exchange demands that we record responses to imperialism besides resistance, such as the ambivalent gestures of identification and acquiescence often seen in early modern creoles and mestizos; all the actors, from the oppressed indigenes to the favored elites, must be ascribed the most complex range of attitudes without the pressure of an implied narrative.9 Further, inasmuch as a category such as new world studies is conceived as transhistorical, it treats the early modern past not in superficial relation to the present but in historical perspective. The category should have no teleology, no historicist directionality, but should owe as much to the early modern period as to the present. Another recent anthology, despite the title Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory, includes no colonial texts, obliging the reader to reconstruct colonial standpoints from those of postcolonialism—a project made problematic by the editors' stipulation that "like any other form of 'post-,' the post-colonial carries with it at least a dual sense of being chronologically subsequent to the second term in the relationship and of—on the face of it—having somehow superseded that term." 10 The redundancy of the "sense" is telling: they might have said "superseded that term and remained ineluctably within it." But that would be a duality in agreement with new world studies, where colonial discourses are probably more immediate, and more immediately multivalent, than they are in the somewhat closed system of postcolonial studies. To revisit the limitation of Renaissance studies mentioned above, "the postcolonial" has sometimes proven itself susceptible to positing a "world" to which its analysis must answer, while new world studies is properly an engine for the investigation of worlds and their makings. Its own world-view may well be incoherent, fragmentary, or overloaded, the better to disclose and render those of its objects.

In practical terms, new world studies affords certain ways of reading both signal and obscure texts in at least double contexts. From its standpoint, a high modernist poem such as Mário de Andrade's "O trovador" ("The Troubadour") exists in perhaps three historical dimensions at once:

    Sentimentos em mim do asperamente
    dos homens das primeiras eras...
    As primaveras de sarcasmo
    intermitentemente no meu coração arlequinal...
    Outras vezes é um doente, um frio
    na minha alma doente como um longo som redondo...
    Cantabona! Cantabona! Dlorom...

    Sou um tupí tangendo um alaúde!

    (Sentiments in me of the harshly
    of the men of the first eras...
    The springs of sarcasm
    intermittently in my harlequinate heart...
    At other times it is a sick man, a cold
    in my soul sick like a long round sound...
    Cantabona! Cantabona!

    I am a Tupí strumming a lute!) 11

The lyric, from Andrade's landmark collection Paulicéia Desvairada (1922), fuses the precolonial era ("the first eras") when agency still belonged to the Tupí Indians; the early modern period when they were spoken for by Portuguese, French, Dutch, and other European imperialists figuratively carrying lutes as instruments of representation; and the agonized present of the 1920s, in which middle-class Brazilians such as Andrade and most of his readership cast about for figures of their own racial and cultural ambiguity, which may take the form of temporal dislocation and self-alienation ("intermitentemente") as well as the physical and emotional signs of racial mixture ("my harlequinate heart").12 Is the poem's final gesture about futility or empowerment? About cultural fragmentation or integration? Is it poignant or ridiculous? New world studies often poses problems of these sorts, and in addressing them one must move readily between historical and contemporaneous dimensions, national and linguistic registers, "old" and "new" worlds in a single textual artifact. The poem cannot be explained entirely in terms of modernism: one can watch it become a differently nuanced object with the installation of more remote worlds around it, namely those of early colonial writing by Portuguese and other European colonists in Brazil and the adjacent courtly societies from which they came, in which lutes are in presentia as part of a representational economy and not merely dead allusions. To read Andrade's lyric as an appropriate object of new world studies is to acknowledge that a word such as "alaúde" opens onto a different world than the modernist Brazilian milieu in which the poem was written and is typically studied: for instance, that in which Shakespeare's Katherina resists a wooing that takes the ironic form of a humanist education, and in doing so remakes "the world" to Petruchio's view:

    Baptista: How now, my friend, why dost thou look so pale?

    Hortensio: For fear, I promise you, if I look pale.

    Baptista: What, will my daughter prove a good musician?

    Hortensio: I think she'll sooner prove a soldier,
    Iron may hold with her, but never lutes.

    Baptista: Why then thou canst not break her to the lute?

    Hortensio: Why no, for she hath broke the lute to me.
    I did but tell her she mistook the frets,
    And bow'd her hand to teach her fingering;
    When, with a most impatient devilish spirit,
    "Frets, call you these?" quoth she, "I'll fume with them."
    And with that word she strook me on the head,
    And through the instrument my pate made way,
    And there I stood amazed for a while,
    As on a pillory, looking through the lute,
    While she did call me rascal fiddler
    And twangling Jack, with twenty such vile terms,
    As had she studied to misuse me so.

    Petruchio: Now by the world, it is a lusty wench!
    I love her ten times more than e'er I did

Since Andrade's poem leaves us "looking through the lute," one is obliged to account for that early modern-turned-modern world appropriately—through the application of relevant primary texts of "as primeiras eras," the description of the worldmakings visible in each text and era, or simply the recovery of some of the dynamic reality of a word such as "lute" in its historical and social contexts—as part of the act of understanding "O trovador."

In 1928 the Peruvian revolutionary José Carlos Mariátegui published a note on the contemporaneous poet Martín Adán, entitled "El anti-soneto" ("The Anti-Sonnet"). Perhaps the most striking aspect of this short piece is how it assumes its avant-garde readership's recognition of a direct relation between early modern and modernist worlds, as though a principal business of the 1920s is to settle these longstanding cultural scores:

    Now, it is true, we can believe in the definitive, evident, irrevocable decease of the sonnet. At last we have the physical proof, the legal evidence of this decease: the anti-sonnet. The sonnet that is not a sonnet anymore, but its negation, its opposite, its critique, its renunciation. While Vanguardism contented itself with declaring the abolition of the sonnet in Cubist, Dadaist, or Expressionist poems, this assault by the new poetry was not completely victorious. It had arrived only at the overthrow of the sonnet: the execution was still to come. The sonnet, prisoner of the revolution, spied out the time for corrupting its guards; the old poets, with their masks of youth, made their rounds captiously around its cell, awaiting the opportunity of liberating it; the new poets themselves, weary now of the Jacobinism of vers libre, began to manifest from time to time a timid nostalgia for the sonnet's classic, Latin authority.... Today, luckily, Martín Adán creates the anti-sonnet. He writes it, perhaps, in spite of himself, moved by his catholic taste and his Thomist ability for reconciling the new dogma with a classical order. A captious, reactionary purpose, it conduces to a revolutionary result. What he gives us, without knowing it, is not the sonnet but the anti-sonnet. It was not enough to attack the sonnet from the outside like the Vanguardists: one had to get inside it, like Martín Adán, to eat its entrails out. Moth-work, prolix, secret, scholastic.... One crashes against the knots of the sonnet as though it were a piece of Renaissance furniture; it is perfectly empty; it is a pure shell. Baroque, culterano, gongoristic, Martín Adán set out in search of the sonnet only to discover the anti-sonnet, as Columbus discovered America on his way to the Indies.14

I take it that the burden of this last sentence is to foreground the worldmaking possibilities of even so limited and technical a procedure as the sonnet: Mariátegui's purpose is to denaturalize the sonnet, to deny it its place as an ostensibly neutral vessel of Euro-American poetics, and to reinvest it with the politics and power that attended its invention. Like Andrade's "O trovador," this note cannot be explained entirely as a modernist production without reducing the Renaissance past to a static term; it belongs to the literature of humanism as a late instance, where it casts attention on the American outcomes of early modern foundings.

To adduce another Brazilian example, consider something not far removed from Andrade's poem, a mock-advertisement from the modernist journal Klaxon. A short-lived experiment ("it is clear that no one buys it")15 that enabled a clutch of ambitious modernist writers to stage their careers, Klaxon featured a variety of subversive, often deadpan takes on the conventional contents of a literary journal—and this advertisement, which appeared on the back cover of the issue of November 30, 1922, was one of the most striking.


Ditties, from $200 to................ 1$000
Ballads, from 1$300 to............. 5$000
Madrigals, epitaphs, acrostics etc.,
priced by the occasion
Simple sonnets.......................... 1$200
The same with rime riche.........   1$500
The same with consonance........ 2$100
The same with golden keys
16.... 3$000
For more information and details request our samples and our latest catalogue.


An unmistakable argument against received poetic forms as predictable, factory-made products—"lyric turnovers," another contemporary called them 17 —this advertisement implies that the provision of value will be turned against Europe: as Brazilian reality has been bought and sold for four centuries figuratively by poets as well as literally by colonists and traders, here the objects of that commerce will sell off the sonnets and ballads that have been the sites of their representation, disclosing the commercial foundation of the entire apparatus of old world culture, lutes and all. Petrarchism, as the occasion for seemingly mass-produced forms and the emotions and "ideas" that fill them, will be broken up piece by piece in this new world, and prices assigned to these exactly as Petrarchans determined value in the world of their making. Even "golden keys," poetic solutions of an idealist color, come with a price tag affixed. If the emerging agency of creoles or mestizos in relation to the instruments of representation was perhaps the most visible present-day social proposition of "O trovador," this advertisement announces its equivalent proposition in its last line: Klaxon is the "agent" here in every sense, cultural as well as commercial, and in the name of a resurgent Brazilian identity and consciousness. I would insist that this advertisement can happen only where worlds—old and new, European and American, humanist and industrial—exist in a mutually accessible plurality, laid on each other: the selling of sonnets takes place—and matters—not "in" Brazilian modernism nor even in Brazil but in the transhistorical continuum that begins with the early commercial exertions of Pero Vaz de Caminha in 1500 and runs through the imperialist-inflected lyrics of Garcilaso de la Vega and Luís de Camões and on to modernism itself. To put it another way, the advertisement would be unnecessary or perhaps even incomprehensible where these worlds were not available to one another, in a condition that endows each poetic form with its particular and immediate value in a "tabella geral" and makes the sale a comic and horrific gesture at the same time: an unloading of the transatlantic patrimony in the awareness that only a rude divestiture can bring about the common purpose of Mário de Andrade and the Klaxon writers, namely cultural independence. More than a gesture, the display in Klaxon is an act of worldmaking that literalizes the undoing of an existing order and renders the stakes of cultural independence entirely clear. Its urgency in this project is finally not masked at all by its ironic veneer. We live in two worlds at once, the advertisement seems to say to its contemporary audience, and this is what it will take to install the world of our making over the one we have received, the world that made us.

That negotiation in unscripted fashion between orders, periods, and worlds may often be germane to postcolonial studies, but is always central to new world studies. Participating in it calls for an orientation to the before and after of cultural change across languages and terrains that might be dispensable to those who work with a conventional period or national literature, but goes to define the challenge of this new object. In the spirit of the "tabella geral" of Klaxon, one might propose another table that portrays cognate changes in equally direct fashion—not polemically, but as a pedagogical maneuver, to provoke reflection and discussion. In "A Cyborg Manifesto" and other essays of the mid-1980s, Donna Haraway produces a chart that portrays some of the "rearrangements in world-wide social relations tied to science and technology." In the chart as throughout the essay, Haraway's argument is that a "polymorphous" culture of information is replacing an earlier order predicated on ideologies of organic unity and systems of industrial organization. The left column lists the terms that express obsolescent values, while the right contains the incipient relationsof the "informatics of domination":



Early modernists, colonialists, and participants in the emergence of new world studies will recognize immediately that the cultural history of the early modern period witnesses the invention of many if not all of the terms the replacement of which Haraway records in this provocative chart. Her attention to cultural change in process can be extended back by one movement to depict the emergence of the world she sees as now disintegrating. If new world studies treats the early modern period as a dynamic event that sees a plurality of worlds coming into existence, then we should be able to propose a column of terms to the left of Haraway's left: a chart for early modernists, in other words, that shows a premodern cultural order gradually coming to be superseded by the terms that are now in turn under stress in the information age:



Scholars of the early modern period will see in this table a conspectus of recent developments in the field, recognizing that some of the terms in this new left-hand or anterior column are more or less medieval in character while some on the right are quintessentially fifteenth- or sixteenth-century; indeed, at a glance the chart may seem to give a received account of how one period gave way to the next. Even so, a chart of this sort should not simply represent such an account, but challenge us to record cultural change in process across many fronts, not always cleanly or clearly and often in settings that show the intermittent, ambiguous relations between terms, orders, worlds. If Haraway's left-hand terms are often idealist foils to their material counterparts in the right column, the early modern chart tells a more provocative story in which these and other terms interrogate each other in many more ways than one's merely replacing the other: romance might appear resurgently in fictions that have decidedly begun the movement toward realism and the novel; idealist and constructivist strategies of meaning contest with one another even in works such as The Faerie Queene that cast their lot with allegory over autoreflexivity; and historical figures—the chronicler Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, say, or the scholar Gabriel Harvey—become harder to read as the conditions of knowledge change around them and what was once integral to a single intellectual agenda is parcelled into discrete disciplines from out of which, today, we can scarcely see.19

Many of the terms in this chart, right as well as left, are found to inhabit the same texts and artifacts, and a work's identity may be interpreted according to its investments along the chart: a chronicle structured around a nuanced treatment of race, as in the Inca Garcilaso's Comentarios reales de los Incas (1609 and 1617), or a conservative generic program joined to a radical acceptance of the plurality of worlds, as in Margaret Cavendish's romance The Blazing World (1666 and 1668). Moreover, the trans-Atlantic encounter as an early modern event is a volatile factor that runs across both sides of the chart, enabling not so much the replacement of one set of terms with another in historical sequence but the perspectival interrogation of one term by another. The objects of new world studies often enact a critical reflection on early modern European-derived culture and society as though from within, or from a standpoint authorized by that culture itself, as part of its self-examination and expansion. Elements of what would come to constitute (say) modernist thought in Latin America are found in the early colonial period, especially where the agents of European imperialism take up one of the most vivid challenges that humanism holds out, namely to apply it to itself in a feat of self-critical reflection. Likewise, much modernist or postcolonial new world writing recapitulates colonial discourse, albeit with a different inflection as in the fashion of the "tabella geral"—parodically, corrosively, with the material motives beneath humanist gestures now in full view.

By way of example, consider the career of a poem by John Donne, namely his nineteenth elegy ("Going to Bed"), which has been treated as a touchstone of new world studies avant la lettre, intuitively recognized as such even by those readers who do not yet conceive of the category:

    Licence my roaving hands, and let them go,
    Before, behind, between, above, below.
    O my America! my new-found land,
    My kingdome, safeliest when with one man man'd,
    My Myne of precious stones, My Emperie,
    How blest am I in this discovering thee!
    To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
    Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
       Full nakedness! All joyes are due to thee,
    As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth'd must be,
    To taste whole joyes. Gems which you women use
    Are like Atlanta's balls, cast in mens views,
    That when a fools eye lighteth on a Gem,
    His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them.
    Like pictures, or like books gay coverings made
    For lay-men, are all women thus array'd;
    Themselves are mystick books, which only wee
    (Whom their imputed grace will dignifie)
    Must see reveal'd. Then since that I may know;
    As liberally, as to a Midwife, shew
    Thy self: cast all, yea, this white lynnen hence,
    There is no pennance due to innocence.
       To teach thee, I am naked first; why than
    What needst thou have more covering then a man.

Most readers aver that the lyric participates in the theme of American exploration through the famous lines that open the second half of the elegy quoted here. But what seems to be the speaker's analogy between the woman's body and America remains in the collective memory not because it is an analogy, however vivid, but because these American lines disclose the logic that has controlled the poem all along—that the roles of conquistador and lover explain and criticize one another—each placing the other, respectively, in political and emotional contexts that cannot be assembled from a singular account. Tradition-bound readers of the elegy might dissent. Clay Hunt, one of the best formalist interpreters of Donne's lyrics, argues that "the lover addresses the mistress in the specific role of an explorer who is requesting a royal patent ('license') which will permit him to discover a new land, explore its unknown riches, conquer it, and, having established himself as its autocratic monarch, bring it under the firm mastery of his civil authority." For Hunt, there is no ambivalence or reflexivity in the speaker's "bold, swaggering theatricality," which is of a piece with "the passion and imaginative excitement which the Elizabethans found in geographic exploration and in the discovery of the New World."21 But the terms that the speaker tosses out suggestively in the first lines,

    Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defie,
    Until I labour, I in labour lie.
    The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
    Is tir'd with standing though he never fight.
    Off with that girdle, like heavens Zone glittering,
    But a far fairer world incompassing.

will prove to have been a type of riddle when the American lines arrive at the midpoint of the lyric: in what "fairer world" is labor requited by enmity? Where are foes bound together in an enterprise that recedes from them as they struggle harder after it? Where can slavery be misprised as freedom by those whose idealism colors their own material motives even to their own sight? The transposition that keeps the poem fresh is that Donne has concisely figured the exploratory urges of the European imperialist—about which it was still barely possible to be naively idealist in the 1590s—with the lust of the illicit lover, a sensation everyone understands for what it is. Hunt's reading of the elegy accurately renders one dimension of the poem's voice, namely the sheer "passion" and "excitement" for conquest that motivates the analogy in the first place; but there is something else there too—a double consciousness or the sense of inhabiting two worlds at once, not simply the old and the new but the public and the private, the geopolitical and the domestic, the colonizer and the colonized, the free and the enslaved, the world of appearances and justifications and that of material realities. For this, the poem is an object of what I am calling new world studies. Unlike Donne's eighteenth elegy, which actually offers a more developed analogy of exploration ("[Thou] Sailing towards her India, in that way / Shall at her fair Atlantick Navell stay"), "Going to Bed" does not so much appropriate the Americas thematically as propose a flexible, self-critical standpoint from which colonial experience can be imagined by a European readership. Occupying both columns of the early modern chart,



the elegy offers a template for placing its audience in lived relation with perhaps the most urgent transnational events of its time.

Further, the poem lives on in two contemporary revoicings: a translation into Portuguese ("Elegia: Indo para o leito," 1978) by the Brazilian poet Augusto de Campos, and a musical version of the Campos translation ("Elegia," 1979) by Caetano Veloso, one of Brazil's most influential pop musicians of the last thirty years.22 For some time Campos has been engaged in—and only occasionally recognized for—a project similar to that of Susan Howe in the United States, namely transposing historical and cultural texts, including European or colonial documents that have been formative of new world experience, into American-voiced lyrics, often with an experimental bent.23   When Campos collates Donne's nineteenth elegy into a volume that includes lyrics by Dickinson and Stein, he carries off not simply a translation but a reweighing that tilts toward what might be called the postcolonial aspect of the original, restoring agency and autonomy to the dimension of Donne's persona that speaks as laborer and bondsman. My translation back into English follows that of Campos into Portuguese:

    Deixa que a minha mão errante adentre
    Atrás, na frente, em cima, em baixo, entre.
    Minha América! Minha terra à vista,
    Reino de paz, se um homem só a conquista,
    Minha Mina preciosa, meu Império,
    Feliz de quem penetre o teu mistério!
    Liberto-me ficando teu escravo;
    Onde cai minha mão, meu selo gravo.

    Let my errant hand enter in
    Behind, in front, on top, beneath, between [enter].
    My America! My land in view,
    Kingdom of peace, if a sole man conquers her,
    My precious mine, my empire,
    Happy the one who penetrates your mystery!
    I liberate myself, remaining your slave;
    Where my hand falls, I engrave my seal.

While it glances at the institution of slavery in Brazil and thus at crioulo or native-born African-Brazilian experience, the Campos translation seems more invested in the perspectives of white or mixed-race planters and landholders, the middle-class agents of Brazilian independence for whom a "kingdom of peace" would be an indispensable social myth; the fact that one of Brazil's largest states is called Minas Gerais (General Mines) and its natives mineiros (miners) only underscores this vaguely nationalist register.24   Veloso's adaptation, in turn, condenses the text further, including the preceding lines and continuing through the following elision of Campos's translation (ellipses indicate where Veloso omits lines of Campos):

    Nudez total! Todo o prazer provém
    De um corpo (como a alma sem corpo) sem
    Vestes. . . .
    Como encadernação vistosa, feita
    Para iletrados, a mulher se enfeita;
    Mas ela é um livro místico e somente
    A alguns (a que tal graça se consente)
    É dado lê-la. Eu sou um que sabe . . .

    Total nudity! All pleasure attends to
    A body (like a soul without body) without
    Clothes. . . .
    Like a vivid bookbinding, made
    For illiterates, the woman is fashioned;
    For she is a mystical book, and only
    To some (to whom such grace is permitted)
    Is it given to read her. I am one who knows....

The poem as pop song extends the revoicing of Donne's already double-voiced original. Where Campos literalizes Donne's laymen—one of the early modern poet's favorite figures for those not in love—into "illiterates," and thus with one stroke brings that trope forward from its medieval origins to the present-day Third World, Veloso answers with a mass cultural rendition that sweeps even illiterates, nonreaders, and those who have heard of neither Augusto de Campos nor John Donne into the lyric's experience; where Campos overlooks a nuance of Donne's—namely that women's exteriors are decorated like bookbindings for the masses, but they "themselves" can be known only by mystics—Veloso makes it moot in enabling every listener to participate in the words "I am one who knows" (based on a slight mistranslation of "then since that I may know"), seizing on the invitation to mass experience installed deep in Donne's lines and, less remotely, those of Campos. If Campos revoices the elegy by adjusting it to a loosely Brazilian idiom, Veloso does so more emphatically by putting the poem in millions of Brazilian mouths, for whom "Minha América!" necessarily means something very different than it did for Donne and his audience. Where Donne's original superseded itself in a sense, straddling the standpoints of anteriority and nascent modernity, the Campos rendition pushes it back entirely into the anterior column while claiming the position of its modern replacement, and the Veloso version does the same to Campos's "Elegia." With each renovation of the imperialist perspective that gave rise to the anterior layer of the nineteenth elegy, the poem becomes more closely adapted to new world experience of the postcolonial era.

This extended example from Donne and his renovators might suggest some further reflections. For the most part, the means of organizing literature and other cultural events into a category such as new world studies is still unarticulated, so that in fact many of the scholars whose work has contributed to its delineation are not aware of themselves as doing so; others may think of themselves simply as practicing comparative literature, for example as comparatists working between European Renaissance and colonial Latin American literatures, an increasingly common intellectual description.

Comparative literature proper, however, has seen little that compares with the confluences that go into new world studies. What is under scrutiny here is neither a tradition, genre, movement, theme, nor ideology, but an enactment of, and a meditation on, culture-building that contains many such elements within it. And as an emergent practice, new world studies has come about in connection with the decisive changes in early modern literary studies of the recent past. For instance, one of the results of the institutionalization of the new historicism since the early 1980s was to cast most of the standard topics of early modern comparative literature—such as the picaresque and the baroque—into suspicion as being poorly grounded in historical terms;25 those topics that prospered in this shifting of values, such as humanism and Petrarchism, did so because they were energetically rethought in historical and political terms right away. 26 But the new historicism in practice is firmly committed to studying literature in a national framework, and lacks even a basic vocabulary for anything wider—anything transnational, say, or multicultural. I would suggest that much of the intellectual force that was routed from those received topics of early modern European literature and culture with the advent of the new historicism was resettled in new world studies, where an updated historicism comes not to break up a received agenda with unanswerable authority but to contribute one methodological element among several; that is, the new historicism is not the final word here but a necessary condition for a critical practice both international in origin and aggressively pluralistic.

What else that practice might include—besides the explicitly transhistorical texts I have discussed here—is open to question; but I believe that new world studies holds particular promise as a way of addressing ethnic and minority writing of the United States. David Palumbo-Liu has recently posed a set of issues to be addressed in the encounter between newly canonized ethnic American literatures and "critical multiculturalism" (or a multiculturalism that resists "the essentializing and stratifying modes of reading ethnic literature that make it ripe for canonization and co-option"):

    First, it is crucial to obtain a sense of the history of forming a "canon" of minority literatures and how the convergence of certain cultural political claims (i.e. race and gender) had to be negotiated. It is also necessary to consider how the texts of a particular "group" may occupy specific institutional positions. Second, turning to specific texts, one needs to critique how ethnic "voices" are constituted within the interstices of dominant aesthetics and ideologies and minority discourses. How are minority discourses generated differently within the dialectic of dominant and ethnic discourses? And how are tribal and ethnic communities "represented" in these discourses? Finally, moving beyond U.S. borders, how do ethnic texts become canonized and reconfigured as they move across national cultural spaces? 27

The last of these questions, of course, imagines a project much like new world studies, which enables the resituation of U.S. minority literatures in contexts where many of their preoccupations and values will occupy dominant positions, and where their ethnicities will be renegotiated against historical and cultural backgrounds that are both cognate and different. New world studies offers U.S. Latino literature, for instance, a second context that provocatively confronts the paradigm of American studies, and with that the possibility of devising a new account in which the work of poets such as Alurista, Lorna Dee Cervantes, and Martín Espada becomes commensurate with that of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking cultures outside North America, present and past. Where the default condition of U.S. nationality enforces certain exclusions from critical discourse—making it difficult to tell what is original from what is merely the local version of a trans-American preoccupation—and renders some issues (such as mestizaje or race mixture) out of international context, a comparative new world setting encourages a freshly rigorous attention to the long-range processes that have led to the formation of distinct but correlative national and local Latino identities, to the negotiations between and within Latino cultures, and the specific terrains in which these events occur. I believe that over the next generation, as scholars of ethnic U.S. literatures come to realize that a model such as new world studies already contains the means of unsettling "essentializing and stratifying modes of reading," their frames of reference will likely turn more explicitly international and transhistorical, their interrogations of present-day usages of history and myth more exacting. It is almost impossible to essentialize an object that continually complicates itself, or to enforce social strata on one that refuses to remain complicit with a national order of things. The attention to worlds and worldmakings involved in new world studies, in other words, approximates the interrogative factor in a critical multiculturalism, and some attention of this sort, by whatever term it might be called, belongs to the unfinished agenda of U.S. minority literatures. With that, the prospect of a literary scholarship arrayed around open-ended historical and cultural processes rather than national histories will grow more immediate, the "tabella geral" of cultural change more inclusive and provocative. New world studies is not a perspective but the possibility of many perspectives, not a field in itself but a second field that persistently makes itself available to disciplinary emphases ranging from Renaissance humanism to Latin American modernism to contemporary American literature. At a time in which the old disciplinary arrangements are loosening their hold, it gives us a common enterprise—with far from common results—across periods, languages, and canons.

Roland Greene



(1)  For some of these disputes, see Comparative Literature in the Age of Multiculturalism, ed. Charles Bernheimer (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), and "Comparative Literature: States of the Art," World Literature Today 69 (1995): 245-303.

(2)  Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 1992), 6.

(3)  Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1976), and Ways of Worldmaking (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1978), and C. S. Lewis, Studies in Words, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 214-68, offer definitions of "world" from which I adapt my usage of the term. For a discussion of Goodman's philosophy of worldmaking, see Jerome Bruner, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), 93-105.

(4)  José Piedra, "The Game of Critical Arrival," Diacritics 19 (1989): 50.

(5)  Charles Bernstein, "Poetics of the Americas," Modernism / Modernity 3.3 (1996): 1-23.

(6)  Manuel Castells, The City and the Grassroots: A Cross-Cultural Theory of Urban Social Movements, California Series in Urban Development 2 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983), xv-xxi and 291-301; New Social Movements: From Ideology to Identity, ed. Enrique Laraña, Hank Johnston, and Joseph R. Gusfield (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), esp. 3-35; and Paul Routledge, Terrains of Resistance: Nonviolent Social Movements and the Contestation of Place in India (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1993), esp. 22-24. I appropriate the term "terrain" from Routledge's study, to denote "real geographical ground" (xi) on which cultural negotiations take place.

(7)  Castells xvii.

(8)  "Introduction," in The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, ed. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (New York: Routledge, 1995), 2.

(9)  Pratt's warning is relevant here: when "autoethnographic" texts ("in which colonized subjects undertake to represent themselves in ways that engage with the colonizer's own terms") "are read simply as 'authentic' self-expression or 'inauthentic' assimilation, their transcultural character is obliterated and their dialogic engagement with western modes of representation lost" (Imperial Eyes 7, 102).

(10)  Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader, ed. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 3.

(11)  Mário de Andrade, Paulicéia Desvairada, in Obras completas, 10 vols., 5th ed. (São Paulo: Livraria Martins, 1979), 1:32-33. The translation is mine.

(12) On the racial ambiguities in Andrade's work, see David T. Haberly, Three Sad Races: Racial Identity and National Consciousness in Brazilian Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 135-60. An exemplary reading of Andrade and other poets in terms of what I am calling new world studies is Richard Morse, New World Soundings: Culture and Ideology in the Americas (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), 61-91.

(13)  William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977), 153.

(14)  José Carlos Mariátegui, "El anti-soneto," Amauta 17 (September 1928); rpt. in Martín Adán, Obra Poética 1928-1971 (Lima: Instituto Nacional de Cultura, 1971), 237-39.

(15)  Menotti del Picchia, in Correio Paulistano, May 17, 1922: 4, rpt. in O Gedeão do modernismo: 1920-22, ed. Yoshie Sakiyama Barreirinhas (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 1983), 351.

(16)  "In a poetic composition, particularly in the sonnet, [a golden key is] a final line expressive of some metaphysical, moral, or religious conceit, perfect in its rhythmic and tonal articulation as well." Raul Xavier, Vocabulário de poesia (Rio de Janeiro: Imago, 1978), 31.

(17)  Menotti del Picchia, in Correio Paulistano, February 17, 1922: 2, rpt. in O Gedeão do modernismo, 330.

(18)  In Donna J. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), the chart appears in slightly different form in several essays, at 161-62, 194, and 209-10.

(19)  See my brief discussion of Oviedo in "Petrarchism among the Discourses of Imperialism," in America in European Consciousness 1493-1750, ed. Karen Ordahl Kupperman (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 155-59; and Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton, "'Studied for Action': How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy," Past and Present 129 (1990): 30-78.

(20) John Donne, Poems, ed. Herbert J. C. Grierson, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1912), 1:120-21.

(21)  Clay Hunt, Donne's Poetry: Essays in Literary Analysis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954), 20.

(22) Augusto de Campos, O anticrítico (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1986), 54-57; Caetano Veloso, Cinema Transcendental, Verve 314512023-2, 1979. On Veloso's work, see Charles A. Perrone, Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song: MPB 1965-1985 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989), 46-88, and—for a still wider context—the same author's Seven Faces: Brazilian Poetry Since Modernism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996). An interview with Veloso appears in Transition 70 (1996): 116-38.

(23)  On Howe's project, see Ming-Qian Ma, "Poetry as History Revised: Susan Howe's 'Scattering as Behavior toward Risk,'" American Literary History 6 (1994): 716-37; Peter Quartermain, Disjunctive Poetics: From Gertrude Stein and Louis Zukofsky to Susan Howe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); and the essays on Howe collected in Talisman 4 (1990).

(24)  Minas Gerais, ed. Carlos Drummond de Andrade (Rio de Janeiro: Editora do Autor, 1967), is an invaluable anthology of colonial and modern sources on Minas Gerais.

(25)  The dating of the new historicism at about 1982 reflects the appearance of a special issue of Genre in that year, edited by Stephen Greenblatt and entitled "The Forms of Power and the Power of Forms," in the introduction to which Greenblatt first used the term "new historicism." The issue was reprinted the same year as The Power of Forms in the English Renaissance (Norman, Oklahoma: Pilgrim Books, 1982).

(26)  The recasting of Petrarchism in explicitly political terms largely hinged on the work of Nancy J. Vickers and Ann Rosalind Jones in the early 1980s: see especially Vickers, "Diana Described: Scattered Woman and Scattered Rhyme," Critical Inquiry 8 (1981): 265-79, rpt. in Writing and Sexual Difference, ed. Elizabeth Abel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 95-109; and Ann Rosalind Jones, The Currency of Eros: Women's Love Lyric in Europe, 1540-1620 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990). For humanism, see Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Europe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), among other work by these scholars. For the eventual recasting of the baroque and the picaresque, see Baroque Topographies: Literature / History / Philosophy, ed. Timothy Hampton, Yale French Studies 80 (1991);  José Antonio Maravall, The Culture of the Baroque: Analysis of a Historical Structure, trans. Terry Cochran, Theory and History of Literature 25 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986); Peter N. Dunn, Spanish Picaresque Fiction: A New Literary History (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993); and Javier Herrero, "Renaissance Poverty and Lazarillo's Family: The Birth of the Picaresque Genre," PMLA 94 (1979): 976-86.

(27)  David Palumbo-Liu, ed., The Ethnic Canon: Histories, Institutions, and Interventions (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), 17, 19.

© 1998 Stanford Humanities Review unless otherwise noted.