Throughout history, colonialism has been inexorably linked to the economics of politics and to the politics of economics. In literature, the mercantilist nature that accompanied colonialism manifests as a greed which is typically either celebrated or censured by authors of the time. For example, Spanish writers such as Francisco de Quevedo and Luis de Góngora sharply criticized colonial avarice from a peninsular perspective in their Golden Age poetry and picaresque novels, while voices from the colonies such as Bartolomé de las Casas attacked the vices of greedy Spaniards on American soil. At the same time, burgeoning American picaresque novels celebrated the upward-mobility and easy lifestyle made possible by the acquisition and exploitation of native resources. This dual (or rather, quadrilateral when one considers the “fors” and the “againsts” from both the colonizers and the colonized) estimation of commerce reveals a fascinating aspect of the socio-political tension that characterizes the colonial period. As the panel explores the presentation of commerce in the poetry and narratives of the British, Dutch, French, Portuguese, and/or Spanish Americas, it will situate these literary works within a cross-disciplinary and cross-national framework that will contribute to our understanding of the complexities of this era of Transatlantic colonialism. It is this panel’s intention, then, to explore through literature some of the varied religious, political, economic, and social undercurrents that informed authors’ opinions of mercantile topics such as commerce, trade, mining, gold, treasure, natural resources, greed, and opportunity in the colonial Americas.
The NeMLA conference will be held in Boston from Feb.26-Mar. 1, 2009.
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