Epic New Worlds: Alonso de Ercilla’s La Araucana 1569 – 2019

Mapamundi (1526) by Juan Vespucci. Image thanks to the Hispanic Society of America

“Epic New Worlds: Alonso de Ercilla’s La Araucana 1569 – 2019” is an international symposium convened on the 450th anniversary of the publication of Alonso de Ercilla’s La Araucana, the most influential Renaissance epic produced in Spain in the sixteenth century. The symposium will be hosted by the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies at the University of Toronto and co-sponsored by the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean at York University. Professor Elizabeth R. Wright will offer a keynote lecture entitled “Eastward Bound from Lepanto: Race and the Ethics of Empire Building.”

The overarching goal of the symposium is to address a range of pressing issues for our understanding of early modernity in the realms of one of the first maritime empires. To this end, the presenters at the symposium will reflect on the role of epic and heroic poetry as a privileged space to document, depict and “make sense” of the encounter between Europe and the New World in the sixteenth century. Accordingly, the presenters will offer a comprehensive reassessment of Alonso de Ercilla’s La Araucana by engaging in knowledge exchange about it through the innovative theoretical lenses of gender studies, critical race theory, materiality, the historiography of colonial Spanish America and the renewed interest in Humanism in Spain.

Mindful of the broad scope of La Araucana, the symposium will be transnational and transatlantic, as the poem deals with the Spanish endeavours in the New World (mainly Chile), but is also deeply connected to Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso (Italy 1532) and to the Portuguese flagship poem Os Lusíadas (1572) by Luis de Camoes. Moreover, La Araucana lends itself to interdisciplinary readings as key sections of the poem deal not only with momentous events in Renaissance Europe such as the Battle of St. Quentin (1557) and the Battle of Lepanto (1571), but also with classical texts such as Virgil’s Aeneid, as well as with novel theories for the justification of war and the technological, cultural and literary transformations brought about by the increasing reliance on gun powder.

Since La Araucana served as the model for subsequent epic poems produced in Spain and Spanish America, the title of the symposium conveys the conviction that the re-evaluation of La Araucana will afford students, scholars, and the public at large a greater appreciation of the intersection between poetry, exploration, and statecraft and a more critical understanding of the transformative changes that took place on the shores of the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Pacific during the period of Iberian expansion.

4-5 OCTOBER 2019

Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies
Victoria College, University of Toronto (Canada)


Emiro Martínez-Osorio (York University)

Luis Fernando Restrepo (University of Arkansas)


Mercedes Blanco (Sorbonne Université)

Imogen Choi (Exeter College, Oxford)

Matthew da Mota (University of Toronto)

Nicole Legnani (Princeton University)

Jason McCloskey (Bucknell University)

Aude Plagnard (Université Paul-Valéry de Montpellier)

Cory Reed (The University of Texas at Austin)

Luis Fernando Restrepo (University of Arkansas)

María Gracia Ríos Taboada (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú)

Shaun Ross (University of Toronto)

Felipe Valencia (Utah State University)

Elizabeth R. Wright (University of Georgia at Athens)