H-170. Spanish American Textualities to c.1820

Hortensia Calvo Christine Hernández Rachel Stein

This course will explore the history of textualities of the region now referred to as Spanish America in the precolonial and colonial eras (c.300 B.C.–c.1820 A.D.). The framework of “textualities”—as opposed to “the book”—encompasses the variety of material modes of writing and recording employed in the pre-colonial and colonial periods. We will cover a broad sweep, from stone inscriptions and painted texts on artifacts of a variety of materials to knot-tying (khipus), writing with ink on linen paper, and manual printing on the moveable-type press.

Among the central questions the course will explore are: How did the diverse cultures of Spanish America—both pre- and post-contact—materialize sacred texts, sciences, histories, genealogies, tributes, cartographies, geographies, accountings, and politics? How have scholars historically categorized, classified, and interpreted Spanish American writing, texts, maps, and books, and in what ways have Eurocentric epistemologies influenced and inhibited these conceptualizations? How did cross-cultural encounters figure in Spanish American textualities, and what frameworks and theories have been used to account for the text as site of contact? What social and political roles did Latin American textualities play in different temporal and geographic contexts?

The course will leverage the rich special collections and archives of the Latin American Library at Tulane University. Readings and discussions will revolve around such highlights as: rubbings of Maya monuments and stelae; original and facsimile Mesoamerican painted manuscripts and maps; Mexican and Peruvian incunabula (1559–1600); early Spanish American manuscripts and printed works, including newspapers; and European imprints about the Spanish Indies. There are few repositories in the United States with such a range and depth of materials to study the history of the Spanish American text.

This course will mix a variety of pedagogical approaches such as lectures, group discussions, and small-group analysis of rare materials. A reading knowledge of Spanish is desirable, but not required. Please note that most of the rare books and manuscripts we will be working with will be in Spanish and Indigenous languages of the Americas. Most secondary readings will be in English, but texts in Spanish may be assigned as well.

Click here to view the course description for the virtual version of this course, “Spanish American Textual Technologies to 1700.”

Course History

Hortensia Calvo, Christine Hernández, and Rachel Stein teach this course in person at Tulane University as "Spanish American Textualities to c.1820."
Hortensia Calvo, Christine Hernández, and Rachel Stein teach this course for the first time online as “Spanish American Textual Technologies to 1700" (10 hours).

Course Resources

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Related Courses


  • Hortensia Calvo
  • Christine Hernández
  • Rachel Stein

Hortensia Calvo

Hortensia Calvo has been the Doris Stone Director of The Latin American Library at Tulane University since 2003. She holds a Licenciatura in Philosophy from the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, an M.A. in Spanish and Spanish American literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Ph.D. in Spanish from Yale University. Her research interests and publications include the Spanish and Spanish American literary Baroque and the social history of books and print culture in Latin America. She is also the co-author of Cartas de Lysi: La Mecenas de Sor Juana en Correspondencia Inédita (Madrid: Vervuert-Iberoamericana, 2015), a critical edition of recently discovered correspondence by María Luisa Manrique de Lara y Gonzaga, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s mentor. Before coming to Tulane, she taught literature at Yale and Princeton Universities and served as Librarian for Latin America and Iberia at Duke, where she also taught in the Romance Studies Department. At Tulane she oversees all administrative functions, collection policies, programs, and services of The Latin American Library. Since 2006, she has served as Executive Director of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM).

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Christine Hernández

Christine Hernández serves as Curator of Special Collections of The Latin American Library at Tulane University and has coordinated digitization initiatives at The Latin American Library since 2012. She received her A.B. in Spanish and Anthropology from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where she was Phi Beta Kappa, and earned her M.A. and her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Tulane University in 2000. She specializes in Mesoamerican archaeology with practical experience in the Greater Southwest of the US and Southeast Louisiana. She has published widely on the archaeology of Mesoamerica, specializing in the prehistory of Michoacán and the El Bajío region of north-central Mexico, and prehispanic painted Maya and highland central Mexican codices. Her published works include journal articles and chapters in edited volumes by publishers like Dumbarton Oaks, University of Florida Press, Ancient Mesoamerica, Ancient America, Middle American Research Institute, and BAR. She has co-authored several volumes with Dr. Gabriel Vail, the most recent of which is Re-Creating Primordial Time: Foundation Rituals and Mythology in the Postclassic Maya Codices (2013), published by University Press of Colorado.

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Rachel Stein

Rachel Stein has been Research & Instruction Librarian at The Latin American Library at Tulane University since 2018. She holds a Ph.D. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures from Columbia University. Her doctoral research examined the printing of books on America, Africa, and Asia in seventeenth-century Lisbon, tracing global production networks across coordinates as diverse as Mexico City, Isla Margarita, Buenos Aires, Bahia, Antwerp, Portuguese Morocco, and Goa. She has published reviews in The Papers of the Bibliographic Society of America and The Journal of Early Modern History and has a forthcoming article on integrating second language and special collections pedagogy. Rachel has been a Senior Fellow with the Andrew W. Mellon-Rare Book School Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography since 2014. Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento (Portugal).

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