In Memoriam

Richard Shaul Woodruff (1913 - 2016)
Richard Shaul Woodruff
(1913 – 2016)

Of my paternal grandfather, Richard Shaul Woodruff, a celebrated centenarian and indefatigable civil engineer who rose to area manager and executive engineer of all Southern Company hydroelectric dams in Alabama. Only in death did I realize the depths of our unsaid affection, and perhaps he was more fond of me than of his own two children. Exceedingly proud of my doctorate, I hope the ends of my of scholarship will have made him even prouder.

Editorial Agency

Unlike modern literary texts, Popol Vuh is not defined by the static text that appears within the four corners of its pages. From Ximénez’s initial act of conservation to the present day, every edition and ever study of Popol Vuh promotes a different agenda. Ximénez plainly disclosed a evangelical purpose, though his paratext was cleaved from the narrative very early on with Brasseur’s 1861 edition. Scherzer seems somewhat disinterested in the narrative itself but rather keen for being known as its discoverer. Brasseur was plainly jealous of Scherzer’s recognition and Brasseur endeavored to turn his edition into an ethnological study. Today, arriving at an objective understanding of Popol Vuh’s significance requires a fundamental understanding of the agency of its conservator, Francisco Ximénez, of its first editors Carl Scherzer and Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, and to a lesser degree, of Alphonse Pinart and Adrián Recinos. Continue reading “Editorial Agency”

Marginalia Theory

In their introduction to Ma(r)king the Text: The presentation of meaning on the literary page, Joe Bray, Miriam Handley, and Anne C. Henry point out 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” (xvii). My research applies marginalia theory to an eighteenth-century Spanish-American colonial text known as Popol Vuh in order to coax its conservator’s authorial/editorial voice to the forefront. Continue reading “Marginalia Theory”

Popol Vuh

Tikal Central Complex Temple IIRoughly five hundred years before the Spanish conquest, the ancient Maya civilization that once erected breathtaking stone temples and civic complexes dissolved into small- and mid-sized regions of power and influence. The jungle swallowed their monuments and the Spanish conquerors, chaplains, and missionaries of the sixteenth century suppressed most of what remained of the pre-conquest culture. Of particular loss were their fan-fold “books” made from lime-bleached amate and adorned with the majestic figures characteristic of Maya writing. 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. Continue reading “Popol Vuh”

Popol Vuh Editorial History

Discerning the proper context of Popol Vuh depends crucially upon understanding the editorial agency so deeply embedded within (which is extensively reviewed in my doctoral dissertation). I divide the editions into three classes: direct editions, indirect editions, and modern editions. These direct and modern arcs can be further subclassified by whether they derived from Ayer ms 1515 or from Historia de la provinçia. Continue reading “Popol Vuh Editorial History”

Digital Humanities for the Lone Scholar

A quick search through The Chronicle of Higher Education yields an overwhelming number of results containing the phrase “digital humanities” (with and without capital letters and sometimes hyphens) but none really seems to proffer a definition that is relevant and helpful to the lone scholar. And if the casually bantered digital-this and digital-that in reader comments are any indication, many of us amble along without a clear notion of how this new thing operates at the level of the individual scholar. As Kathleen Fitzpatrick explains, “Digital Humanities” does not signify merely “rendering stuff digital” but rather “a nexus of fields within which scholars use computing technologies to investigate the kinds of questions that are traditional to the humanities.” But what does that mean for the analog-trained humanist? Continue reading “Digital Humanities for the Lone Scholar”

Ma(r)king Popol Vuh

Journal Publication. 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. Continue reading “Ma(r)king Popol Vuh”

Ayer ms Prologue Transcriptions

Prior to my doctoral dissertation, there was no single edited collection of the Ayer ms 1515 prologues. Historically, Carl Scherzer included Ximénez’s third and fourth prologues in his 1857 edition of Las Historias, Rosa Helena Chinchilla Mazariegos included the first prologue in her 1993 edition of Arte de las tres lengvas, and Néstor Quiroa published the second prologue in 2001 in the Colonial Latin-American Historical Review. Even so, Néstor Quiroa and I are the only scholars worldwide to analyze any of the Ayer ms 1515 prologues for insight into Popol Vuh’s pedigree. It is my hope that making my collection of all four Ayer ms 1515 prologues available here will raise awareness of their contribution to the text’s and to the narrative’s meaning and spark investigations by other scholars. Continue reading “Ayer ms Prologue Transcriptions”

Disparities of Discourse in Popol Vuh: Constructing Images of the Self-same and of the Other

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. Continue reading “Disparities of Discourse in Popol Vuh: Constructing Images of the Self-same and of the Other”

The “most futile and vain” Work of Father Francisco Ximénez: Rethinking the Context of Popol Vuh

Dissertation. Popol Vuh recounts the mytho-historical traditions of the Quiché Maya and it comes to the modern day reader via the seventeenth-century priest Francisco Ximénez of the order of Santo Domingo. Though Father Ximénez is appreciated for his act of conservation, little critical attention has been given to his role in the process. The oversight is particularly disconcerting given the opening statement of 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 the question, Why does Father Ximénez believe this to be his most important, his “most useful and necessary” work? Continue reading “The “most futile and vain” Work of Father Francisco Ximénez: Rethinking the Context of Popol Vuh”