Early Spanish American Narrative

Early Spanish American Narrative

Early Spanish American Narrative

Early Spanish American Narrative


Early Spanish American Narrative is based on careful scholarship, but provides an accessible introduction to the Spanish-language literature of the Americas for the general reader as well as for scholars. - David Caffey, Southwest BookViews "Lindstrom makes a compelling case for the viability of colonial and nineteenth-century narrative today." - Raymond L. Williams, University of California, Riverside, author of The Twentieth-Century Spanish American Novel

The world discovered Latin American literature in the twentieth century, but the roots of this rich literary tradition reach back beyond Columbus's discovery of the New World. The great pre-Hispanic civilizations composed narrative accounts of the acts of gods and kings. Conquistadors and friars, as well as their Amerindian subjects, recorded the clash of cultures that followed the Spanish conquest. Three hundred years of colonization and the struggle for independence gave rise to a diverse body of literature- including the novel, which flourished in the second half of the nineteenth century. To give everyone interested in contemporary Spanish American fiction a broad understanding of its literary antecedents, this book offers an authoritative survey of four centuries of Spanish American narrative. Naomi Lindstrom begins with Amerindian narratives and moves forward chronologically through the conquest and colonial eras, the wars for independence, and the nineteenth century. She focuses on the trends and movements that characterized the development of prose narrative in Spanish America, with incisive discussions of representative works from each era. Her inclusion of women and Amerindian authors who have been downplayed in other survey works, as well as her overview of recent critical assessments of early Spanish American narratives, makes this book especially useful for college students and professors.


The main purpose of the first part of this introduction will be to delimit the coverage of the present overview of early Spanish American narrative and justify inclusions and exclusions. I will also provide a working definition of what I consider, exclusively for the specific purposes of the present book, to constitute narrative. The second part of the introduction offers a highly condensed summary of research on Amerindian writing systems and narrative in what are now the Spanish American countries.


The time span covered here is, fundamentally, from the Spanish arrival in the Americas until 1900. While the primary works examined are from this relatively early period, the research about them that I cite is, in great part, quite recent. One motive for writing this book has been to show how early Spanish American literature has been reread and reinterpreted during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In this sense, an important secondary purpose of the volume, besides following the development of early Spanish American narrative, is to show recent and current tendencies in the criticism of this literature.

A glance at the table of contents will show that the bulk of this survey is devoted to nineteenth-century Spanish American narrative, with the period of the Spanish conquest and colonial rule relatively briefly represented. The reason is that narrative fiction as we currently recognize it did not really develop in the Spanish-speaking Americas until the nineteenth century. The delay is the result of factors, such as Spain’s attempts to ban novels in its American colonies, which will be explained in the course of this study. The work generally recognized as the first Spanish American novel, El Periquillo Sarniento (The Itching Parrot) by José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi of Mexico, appeared in 1816; the text that . . .

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