© 1993

Imagining Columbus

The Literary Voyage

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xviii
  2. Mapmaking

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Ilan Stavans
      Pages 3-14
    3. Ilan Stavans
      Pages 15-30
    4. Ilan Stavans
      Pages 31-46
  3. Lives of a Literary Character

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 47-47
    2. Ilan Stavans
      Pages 49-57
    3. Ilan Stavans
      Pages 58-77
    4. Ilan Stavans
      Pages 78-91
    5. Ilan Stavans
      Pages 92-114
    6. Ilan Stavans
      Pages 115-120
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 121-169

About this book


Imagining Columbus is Stavans's contribution to the literature on Columbus. 'My purpose,' says Stavans, 'is to revisit, to investigate, to play with the asymmetrical geometries of the admiral's literary adventures in the human imagination.' Arguing that writers have portrayed Columbus in three ways-as prophet or messiah, as ambitious gold-seeker, and as a conventional, rather unremarkable man-Stavans examines numerous poems, novels, short stories, dramas, and other works on Columbus in this provocative book. In Part 1, 'Mapmaking,' Stavans explores the two opposing views of the celebration of the quincentennial, and discusses the most notable biographies of Columbus, including those by Washington Irving and Samuel Eliot Morison. In Part 2, 'Lives of a Literary Character,' Stavans takes up the geographic and historical development of Columbus as a narrative figure in literature, and devotes a chapter to each of the three literary views of the admiral. Stavans includes portrayals of other writers' views on Columbus like Walt Whitman, Alejo Carpentier, James Fenimore Cooper, Friedrich Nietzsche, Nikos Kazantzakis, Rubén Darío, Michael Dorris, Louise Erdrich, among others.

About the authors

ILAN STAVANS is Professor of Spanish at Amherst College and the author/editor of over twenty books including The Hispanic Condition (sold over 30,000 copies, 7th printing) and Growing Up Latino (sold over 50,000 copies, 9th printing). In the next year, Stavans's upcoming books include On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language (Viking 01) and The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature (02). The editor-in-chief of Hopscotch: A Cultural Review, Stavans has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Latino Literature Prize, and was nominated to the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Bibliographic information


'Ilan Stavans has accomplished a difficult task: to be both extensive and intensive in his quest for the truth and mystery which surround Christopher Columbus. The exploration through wide studies of myth, history, and literature is as exciting as it is authoritative.' - Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, The University of Texas at Austin

'A strikingly original and extraordinarily informative account of Columbus's travels from the New World to the book world. Highly recommended.' - Gustavo Perez Firmat, author of Life on the Hyphen: The Cuban-American Way

'In this highly original book, Ilan Stavans takes a postmodern look at Christopher Columbus by seeing him as a plural entity in continuous shift. There is not one Columbus-not even two Columbuses, the savior and the offender-but many of them, which are the product of worldwide ideological manipulation and literary imagination. Thoroughly researched and easy to read, Imagining Columbus is one of the most interesting books commemorating the European and American encounter.' - Antonio Benitez-Rojo, author of The Repeating Island

'Washington Irving invented Columbus for the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Ilan Stavans has reinvented him for our fin de siécle-and perhaps for the following centuries.' - José Emilio Pacheco, author of You Will Die in a Distant Land