Spanish-American Colonial Texts

Tikal Central Complex Temple IIRoughly five hundred years before the Spanish conquest, the once majestic Maya kingdoms dissolved into hyperlocal power centers. The jungle swallowed their breathtaking stone temples and ball courts and the Spanish conquerors, chaplains, and missionaries of the sixteenth century suppressed most of what remained of the pre-conquest culture. For centuries all that remained were their fan-fold tablets made from lime-bleached amate and adorned with the fanciful figures characteristic of Maya art. Only three such confirmed items survive today—the Madrid, Paris, and Dresden codices—Folio from Madrid codexall of which had already been whisked away to Europe long before their existence became known to the world. Still, Maya epigraphers could not meaningfully decipher these or their stone inscriptions until the latter part of the twentieth century. In the absence of authentic and comprehensible material, the written accounts of the Spanish establishment arose as the authoritative sources of historiographic and ethnographic information on the pre-colonial civilizations and populations. A number of these colonial texts are commonly recognizable, but perhaps the most recognizable of all is Popol Vuh.more ›

(Re)writing (Hi)story

Invited Panelist. The end of the Fifth Great Cycle in Maya cosmology (12-21-2012) is nebulous and poorly characterized. This is almost entirely the consequence of exclusive reliance upon the inadequate writings of epistemologically-conflicted Europeans.more ›

Ma(r)king Popol Vuh

Refereed Journal. Joe Bray, Miriam Handley, and Anne C. Henry have argued that “to mark a text is also to make it; [and] features such as punctuation, footnotes, epigraphs, white space and marginalia, marks that traditionally have been ignored in literary criticism, can be examined for their contribution to a text’s meaning.” In 2007 The Newberry Library disbound the oldest surviving text of Popol Vuh for conservation. That process made it possible to examine a number of paratextual markers calling into question popular perspectives of Popol Vuh as Indian auto-ethnography. This refereed article published at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill seeks to raise modern awareness of the manuscript’s paratext and its meaning for traditional assumptions of Popol Vuh’s survival and its narrative/textual boundaries.more ›

Popol Vuh Prologues

My doctoral dissertation presented the first edited collection of all four Ayer ms 1515 prologues. My hope is that making these prologue transcriptions available online will raise awareness of their contribution to Poppl Vuh’s textual and narrative meaning and spark investigations by other scholars.more ›

Disparities of Discourse in Popol Vuh

Conference Paper. Francisco Ximénez’s transcription and translation of Popol Vuh is not as straightforward and sterile as is generally presumed. The task requires intricate management of the textual and semiotic grids, both in the the Quiché transcription and in the Spanish translation.more ›

Rethinking the Context of Popol Vuh

Doctoral Dissertation. Although seventeenth-century Dominican priest Francisco Ximénez is credited for conservation of Popol Vuh, no critical attention is given to his personal agency and his ecclesiastical agenda. The oversight is particularly disconcerting where he plainly states in his prologue, “Esta mi obra, y trabaxo discurro q’ avra muchos q’ la tengan por la mas futil y vana de las q’ he trabaxado, asi lo pensaran muchos; y yo lo discurro al contrario, porq’ entiendo ser la mas util, y neçesaria.” My investigation is founded on answering the question: Why did Father Ximénez believe conservation of this text to be his crowning achievement? I answer this question by examining the four prologues of the Ayer manuscript to uncover Ximénez’s significant interaction with the text.more ›