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Study Questions

  • 1. Discuss the semantic implications of ‘discovery,’ ‘exploration,’ and ‘landing.’ Which other terms might be used to describe Columbus’s geographic mobility?
  • 2. What are the rhetorical strategies Bartolome de las Casas, Ferdinand Columbus, and others employ to depict Columbus in a positive light?
  • 3. Give the various aspects that made Columbus seem an appropriate and usable national hero around the time of the founding of the US.
  • 4. Describe the process by which Columbus became appropriated as an Italian American ancestor figure.
  • 5. Discuss Walt Whitman’s poems “A Prayer of Columbus” and “A Thought of Columbus,” and explicate their representational strategies.
  • 6. Discuss the implications of Native American revisionist critiques of the Columbus myth as both subnational and transnational interventions. What does, in this context, the neologism ‘Columbusing’ refer to?
  • 7. Compare the representation of Columbus in different history and/or school books. How do they reflect on various versions of the myth?
  • 8. Check out Tatzu Nishi’s 2012 installation “Discovering Columbus” at Columbus Circle, New York City ( 5495_discovering_columbus). How does this art project reflect on the mythic quality of the historical figure?
  • 9. Can you think of other (American) stories of ‘discovery’ and/or ‘landing’ that perpetuate, reproduce, or converge with that of Columbus?
  • 10. In a comparative hemispheric framework, you can study the ways in which Columbus is represented in Latin American literature, e.g. in Ruben Dario’s poem “A Colon” (1892), in Alejo Carpentiers El arpa y la sombra (1979), and/or in Augusto Roa Bastos’s Vigilia del almirante (1992). What are differences and similarities to the US-American Columbus discourse?
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