RHETOR 151 Chapter 5: R151 Reading 2.2.2017 (3)

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5 Feb 2017

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Rhetoric 151 Reading 2/2
Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World
- Argument: Columbus had a highly self-conscious interest in the marvellous
- Objective of C’s mission notoriously difficult to determine - more than a
diplomatic or commercial voyage
- Important to resist normalizing what was not normal
- Display of royal standard after landing shows the formality of the occasion and
designates the sovereign on whose behalf Columbus’ speech acts are performed
- Legitimizing gestures: presence on the land
- Mechanism of legal recording
- Physical alteration of the land
- Construction of an edifice
- Formal exercise of justice
- For C, taking possession is principally performing a set of linguistic acts > his
stakes in this possession is also high > enacts ritual for himself as well as the
sovereigns in Spain
Different positions of the Spaniards and the natives
- Not only are the natives denied the opportunity to dispute the claim of Spanish,
they live in a different universe of discourse
- Hence, C’s claim that he was not contradicted by the native seem particularly
absurd - why should they be thought of as capable to contradict (and choose
consciously not to)?
- Answer lies in C’s linguistic acts and their formalism - C is observing a
form that evidently calls for the possibility of a contradiction
- Doesn’t matter why there was no contradiction, as long as they was not
- Demonstrates C’s complete indifference to the consciousness of the other
- C’s formalism tries to make the new lands uninhabited by emptying the
category of the other, because in his eyes only linguistic competence
allows one to fill in the sign
- We should resists the notion that formalism has a necessary and inherent
colonial politics!
C titling himself
- Attempts to recast his role
- “They judge me as a governor sent to Sicily or to a city or two under settled
government” “I ought to be judged as a captain who went from Spain to the
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