Loyola University Chicago

Department of History


Spring Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar on Early Mexico and Peru

Spring Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar on Early Mexico and Peru

This spring, Priscilla Archibald, associate professor of Latin American literature at Roosevelt University, and Delia Consentino, associate professor of History of Art and Architecture at DePaul University, will lead the Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar "Mexico and Peru through Word and Image, 1492-1820". This seminar is a unique opportunity for undergraduates to explore the humanities at one of America's foremost research libraries. The seminar runs from January 13, 2015 to May 7, 2015 and meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 2-5 PM at the Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago. The seminar carries the credit of two courses and is limited to 20 participants who pursue common assignments and individual research projects.

Mexico and Peru, home in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to the thriving Aztec and Inca empires, were the focal points of Spain’s American conquests in the early sixteenth century. These regions became the two principal centers of the Spanish Empire in the hemisphere, where Europeans, indigenous Americans, and enslaved Africans coexisted at length for the very first time in world history. A complex set of cultural dynamics evolved over three centuries of Spanish rule, shaping the production of identities, languages, religion, literature, art and knowledge in both Peru and Mexico.

Drawing on the Newberry’s extensive collection of primary documents and materials, and on established and recent scholarship, the course will explore the multiple, layered, and intersecting histories of Spanish America. The course will examine the foundation mythologies of explorers and conquerors, the role of Christianity in colonizing efforts, the persistence and transformation of indigenous traditions, the articulation of race and gender identities, and the foundation and mapping of cities.

By examining both texts and images, this course will call attention to the differences between Native American and European systems of communication and recorded knowledge. Visual and symbolic forms of writing, such as Aztec glyphs and the Inca Quipu, were once dominant in the American territories. Alphabetic writing introduced by the Spaniards played a pivotal role in their colonizing project, establishing a discursive dominance that both reflected and effected a material one. Seminar participants will be encouraged to consider the communicational capacity of any visual or textual document.

Working with their instructors and the Newberry staff, students will carry out a research project using primary materials in the library’s collection, such as native codices, letters and accounts of exploration and conquest, maps, evangelizing texts, dictionaries, travel literature, poetry, music, and diverse ethno-historical documents. They will also benefit from being part of the Newberry’s intellectual community. While knowledge of a language other than English is not required, students with Spanish proficiency will have the opportunity to conduct research in that language.

To learn more about the Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar, or to apply, please get in touch with Dr. Kyle Roberts (kroberts2@luc.edu). Applicants are required to submit an application form, an up-to-date college transcript, an essay (500 words, maximum) explaining why they want to take the course and what they hope to gain from it, and a recent research paper completed for a college course (preferably with the instructor's comments and grade). Individual universities may have additional requirements.