Enclosed are seven poems that explore the topic of mapping. Six of these form part of a series of ekphrastic poems on sixteenth-century "mappa mundi." They use the trope of the "cosmographic heart" or the "cordiform map" to tell the story of early European and American contact. Four of them use actual sixteenth-century mappa mundi (Fineaus's cordiform map, Bunting's clover-leaf map, Hand an anonymous Flemish map that uses Ortellius's cordiform map as the face of a jester) as points of departure. These maps by iconographically distorting the world make visible through representation the Early Modern Europe had with understanding the meaning of the Americas. The other two are on Columbus proper. On his having kept a secret journal and on the rumor that started early on that before Columbus's discovery a man named Alonso Sanchez had discovered Santo Domingo and provided the Genoese mariner with his map. All five of these poems also use traditional tropes from love poetry, especially tropes found in Hispano-Arabic love poems. This is because when Columbus sailed he brought with him Arabic translators. Thus, the first language after Columbus's Italian/Portuguese/Castilian pidgin heard by the Taino people would have been Arabic. The use of tropes taken from love poetry complements the cordiform maps, which use mystical ideas of love to allegorically incorporate the Americas within the European cosmographical imaginary, but do so in a way that erases and hides the violence of the encounter.
The seventh poem, "the angle of dead & dying towns," is its own entity, part of a series of angel poems, but the only one that takes up the question of maps (though rather loosely) and cities and empire.
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Paden, Jeremy Dae
"Six Poems on Sixteenth-Century Maps,"
disClosure: A Journal of Social Theory: Vol. 23
, Article 5.
Available at: https://uknowledge.uky.edu/disclosure/vol23/iss1/5