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Humanities Seminar

Wednesday, February 20, 2019
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Dabney Hall 110 (Treasure Room)
The Legible Image: Translating Pictorial Knowledge in Early Colonial Mexico
Daniela Bleichmar, Professor of Art History and History and Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Initiatives in the Arts and Humanities, University of Southern California,

Abstract: The Codex Mendoza, a striking illustrated manuscript created in Mexico City ca. the 1540s, is one of the earliest, most detailed, and most studied post-conquest accounts of pre-Hispanic indigenous life. In this talk, I propose a new approach to this important manuscript and, more generally, to the investigation of visual culture and knowledge production in sixteenth-century Mexico. I focus on the complex process through which Nahuas and Spaniards manufactured the document, arguing that multiple translations—across media, languages, and cultural framings—were needed to render Aztec images and culture legible and acceptable to non-native viewers and readers. This process of transculturation had profound epistemological and ontological implications for both the making and the use of images. The Codex Mendoza, I argue, is not only a record of Aztec life but also a register of the cultural interpretations and negotiations involved in making and looking at images, books, and knowledge in early colonial Mexico.

For more information, please contact Cecilia Lu by phone at 626-395-1724 or by email at [email protected].