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Travel Dialogues Under Counter-Reformation Pressure: A New Vehicle for Polemics in 16th Century Hispanic Literature


This dissertation considers two literary texts in dialogue form: the anonymous Viaje de Turquía written in the 1550's about a Spaniard's experiences as an ex-captive of the Turks and his travels back to Spain through Greece and Italy; and Pedro de Quiroga's c. 1565 Coloquios de la verdad, about the experiences of an indigenous Peruvian who witnesses the process of colonization and the failed evangelization of the natives firsthand. Both texts contain a large amount of ethnographic detail (from the manner in which people pray, raise their families and celebrate, to the rituals surrounding the chewing of the coca leaf and the degustation of Turkish yogurt). The texts justify themselves in an introductory section (prologue) where the "authors" extol the virtues of knowing about other world cultures and praise the veracity of eye-witness reports. I argue that although these dialogues present themselves as travel narratives that offer the Spanish crown useful ethnographic portraits of non-Christian cultures, their ulterior motive, and ultimate effect, is a critique of Christian Spain. Using genre theory as developed by Frederic Jameson and Claudio Guillén, I review how the dialogues are criss-crossed by other genres that contribute to their literary and thematic force.

Chapter One introduces the texts, describes the theoretical framework and method of analysis that is used; and reviews the dissertation's structure. Chapter Two contextualizes the two dialogues, placing them within their historical times and places; and shows how the manuscripts' history, the play between interlocutors and their control of the narrative, the sort of portrait drawn of the non-Spanish culture, and other literary issues related to both form and the content reflect historical, philosophical, religious, and political realities. Chapter Three brings into play genre theory in order to identify the models for the dialogues under discussion, namely travel narratives (Marco Polo and John Mandeville), Plato's philosophical dialogues, and Lucian's satiric dialogues; and the other genres that they incorporate: other travel narratives of the period, autobiography, and picaresque.

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