Hum Update: Week 2

The second week of the new Hum 110 curriculum has come and gone. The first-years have quickly settled into the new material, and, just like in fall semester, the excitement has started to wear off. For Monday’s lecture, Margot Minardi, associate professor of history and humanities and chair of Humanities 110, discussed the Templo Mayor as a three-dimensional map of the historical city-state Tenochtitlán. The Templo Mayor was the main temple of the Mexica people situated in the center of the city. Dedicated to Mexica gods Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, it served as the spiritual and cultural center of the Mexica universe. For reading, students looked at an image gallery of the Templo Mayor and read an article about the origins and influences of a 1524 map of Tenochtitlán known as the Nuremburg map.

Wednesday’s readings were selections from José de Acosta’s Natural and Moral History of the Indies. Acosta, a Spanish Catholic missionary, lived in Peru and Mexico City. In Europe, his account was one of the most influential descriptions of pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican societies. David Garrett, professor of history and humanities, gave a lecture on “Scholarship and Colonial Power,” explaining how the missionary Acosta’s accounts are inherently flawed because he tried to fit the Mexica society into a European framework. This understanding of the Mexica society paved the path for Christian evangelization and Spanish colonialism.

On Friday, Laura Liebman, professor of English and humanities lectured on the Mexica poetry known as xóchitl in cuícatl (literally “flower and birdsong”.) She emphasized that xóchitl in cuícatl doesn’t fit into Western understandings of literature, and attempting to do so erases the unique identity and form of the genre. Xóchitl in cuícatl is better described as a unique blend of oral poetry and song that celebrates the richness of life. The readings included audio recordings and lyrics.

Personally, I’m still really enjoying this semester. Learning about the Mexica understanding of the world has shifted my world view. The Mexica believed that everything was constantly in motion. To them, things are not in a fixed state of being; they are eternally in process of becoming. I love this idea of constant growth and change, that nothing is stagnant and everything is alive. As I (jokingly) said to my conference, if I learn nothing else this semester, I’ve at least learned that.

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