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La poetica de la ley en los textos coloniales

Raul A Marrero-Fente, University of Massachusetts Amherst


My dissertation is the first systematic study to bring together contemporary legal and literary theory to the analysis of the legal texts of Spain in the New World. By focusing on the Capitulaciones de Santa Fe (1492), and other legal documents, I argue that this legal corpus is also a narrative construct which blurs the distinction between fact and fiction. My purpose is to explore the rhetorical dimension of legal writing as a process of emplotment of colonial encounters. The poetics of legal narrative will be examined applying the theory of "law as literature," a recent cross-disciplinary approach. My point is that all the strategies and approaches developed in the field of colonial literary studies have neglected to examine this corpus of laws as cultural production. Nevertheless, it is precisely rhetoric which provides an accessible medium for exploring the connection between law and literature. My point is that colonial legislation can be understood in its complexity only when it is realized that legal discourse is not merely conceptual--that is, not reducible to a set of definitions--but also literary, by which I mean that its metaphorical and associative quality derives precisely of the need to address the question of imposing principles of social control, which are at the center of any legislative controversy. In other words, Spain's legislation in America should be studied not only as a set of rules or institutions, but as a kind of discursive practice of cultural dominance. This methodological approach is based on the assumption that a nexus between law and literature was at the center of the Conquest of America. Finally, I will conclude by summarizing the objectives of my work. This study should help to increase our understanding of the relation between law and literature. Cataloguing legal texts as new objects of study within Colonial Literature, invites us to raise new research questions which, among other things, challenges the category of what we consider as "colonial texts." The methodological consequences of this broadening of the range of objects of study represents an enrichment of perspectives in colonial literary studies.

Subject Area

Latin American literature|Literature|Middle Ages|Law

Recommended Citation

Marrero-Fente, Raul A, "La poetica de la ley en los textos coloniales" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9737558.