Travel Narratives from New Mexico, Reconstructing Identity and Truth

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The colonialist West has spoken for New Mexico since 1540 when Francisco Vasquez de Coronado traveled to Acoma Pueblo in his search for the legendary cities of gold. With the Spanish incursion, followed fifty-six years later by the first English-speaking colonists in New Mexico, began the representation of New Mexico from an outsider’s perspective. The colonial West imagined itself to hold central claims to knowledge, so it knew its peripheries only as it encountered and articulated their presence to itself. This Western narrative, based on an imagined Western privilege to foundational or platonic knowledge, has become the dominant Euro-American discourse through which New Mexico has come to be known. The comparative study of this collection of travel and contact narratives traces the enforcement of–and resistance to–the Western myth of the Euro-American and European as normative, as well as the Hispanic and the native as Other. The author ably introduces the platonic quest as a new unifying thread that links each of these travel narratives to his argument that identity and claims to knowledge may be tested, recovered, or created in movement within New Mexico. The platonic journey has mostly been understood as an intellectual journey toward truth. This study expands upon the platonic journey to show that it may also, like the quest, be played out in geographical space. Travel Narratives from New Mexico will be a very valuable resource for students and scholars of literature, especially of the American Southwest and travel theory.

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