The Darker Side of the Renaissance

Literacy, Territoriality, & Colonization, 2nd Edition
Walter D. Mignolo
With a New Afterword by the Author
An exploration of the role of the book, the map, and the European concept of literacy in the conquest of the New World


The Darker Side of the Renaissance draws from literature, semiotics, history, historiography, cartography, and cultural theory as it examines the role of language in the colonization of the New World. Charting the connections between writing, social organization, and political control, this broad and ambitious book argues that European forms of literacy were at the heart of New World colonization and examines both the process and the implications of conquest and destruction through language. Winner of the Modern Language Association's Katherine Singer Kovacs prize for 1996, the book continues to challenge commonplace understandings of New World history and to stimulate new colonial and postcolonial scholarship.

Walter D. Mignolo is William H. Wannamaker Professor of Literature, Cultural Anthropology and Romance Studies and Director of the Center for Global Studies and the Humanities at Duke University.

Praise / Awards

  • "The new, well argued and well illustrated, practical as well as theoretical The Darker Side of the Renaissance manages to improve on a work excellent from the start. It brings a balanced and scholarly mind to a field full of radical past-bashers and agitated activists who think the old was far worse than the new, ignoring the fact that racism now reigns among the oppressed as well as among the oppressors and there are empires and colonizers and atrocities today that make the Black History of Spain almost pale in comparison."
  • ". . . a great gift to students of cultural imperialism and some other sorts of politics, even cartography. . . . "

  • "Scrupulous attention to rhetoric, image-making, and discourses makes The Darker Side of the Renaissance a flamboyantly encyclopedic and stimulatingly critical reading of colonialism's culture. Mignolo's staggering contribution to early modern cultural and literary studies reinforces the suggestion that there can be no colonialism without a language."
    Journal of American Folklore

  • Winner of the Modern Language Association's Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize

Look Inside


Preface     vii

Introduction On Describing Ourselves Describing Ourselves: Comparatism, Differences, and Pluritopic Hermeneutics     1


Chapter 1. Nebrija in the New World: Renaissance Philosophy of Language and the Spread of Western Literacy     29

Chapter 2. The Materiality of Reading and Writing Cultures: The Chain of Sounds, Graphic Signs, and Sign Carriers     69


Chapter 3. Record Keeping without Letters and Writing Histories of People without History     125

Chapter 4. Genres as Social Practices: Histories, Enkyclopaideias, and the Limits of Knowledge and Understanding     171


Chapter 5. The Movable Center: Ethnicity, Geometric Projections, and Coexisting Territorialities     219

Chapter 6. Putting the Americas on the Map: Cartography and the Colonization of Space     259

Afterword On Modernity, Colonization, and the Rise of Occidentalism     315

Notes     335

Bibliography     385

Index     415

Second Thoughts on The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Afterword to the Second Edition     427

Product Details

  • 6.125 x 9.25.
  • 488pp.
  • 121 B&W photographs and line drawings, 13 tables, 5 maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08931-4

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  • $33.95 U.S.