ENGL 157 - Final Exam

ENGL 157 - Final Exam - Mallory Carlson Professor Hawley...

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Mallory Carlson Professor Hawley ENGL 157 5 December 2007 Final Exam Part 1: Colonial discourse in Marvelous Possessions In the introduction, Greenblatt uses the resurfacing descriptive “marvelous” to refer to the colonizer’s perception of a completely new and foreign land, specifically the European’s attitude of fascination and wonder towards the New World. Greenblatt warns the reader, however, that “the authors of the anecdotes with which this book concerns itself were liars,” and furthermore, very unsystematic liars (Greenblatt 7). It therefore becomes ironic that the marvelous is employed in the travel literature to lend credit to the authenticity of the accounts. In Mandeville’s Travels , for example, his outrageous accounts of the East are believed by his contemporaries because their exoticness is too shocking to be considered false or fabricated. But, as Greenblatt warned his readers in the introduction, Mandeville, among other travel writers of the time, is a liar. However, the fact that Mandeville’s text was fabricated, when combined with his questionable identity, results in an interesting set of evaluative advantages; “Not only does it force us to think about this text as an unstable, open-ended, collective production, but it calls attention in a particularly focused way to the discrepancy between written words and the missing body that these words attempt to conjure up” (35). Concerning this discrepancy between words and representation, Greenblatt highlights the way in which the colonizer’s experience of alterity becomes skewed by the linguistic and cultural misinterpretation of his writing by his own society. This unfortunate reality, this gap
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between what is meant and what is subjectively conveyed, is inevitably due to “the inescapable errancy of language, an errancy that inscribes difference everywhere, not only at the margins but at the center, not only in the other but in the self” (50). Despite Europe’s “mobile technology of power,” specifically the power of its record of written discourse, this power becomes a double-edged sword when it fails to properly communicate what was meant to or what should have been written and recorded in order to give a true and objective perspective (9). For example, Greenblatt informs us that according to “Columbus, taking possession is principally the performance of a set of linguistic acts: declaring, witnessing, recording” (57). But, as we come to find out, some of Columbus’ literary accounts imply a faulty (and therefore highly subjective) integrity; when travel writing fails to be objective, judgment becomes grounded in a fantasy, in a world that does not exist. Even in the case of Mandeville’s Travels , many people came to believe that the author’s seemingly truthful anecdotes represented reality. Although he technically “takes possession of nothing,” Mandeville took possession (and advantage) of many people’s imaginations (26). Since Columbus was aware of those who would read
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ENGL 157 - Final Exam - Mallory Carlson Professor Hawley...

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