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  1. The overview to this topic discusses the ways in which Elizabethans used encounters with other cultures as a means of defining themselves. Often, the resulting definitions were unstable at best. Explore this idea more fully by going to Web resources that focus on sixteenth-century exploration. You might begin with the excellent online exhibition Cultural Readings: Colonization and Print in the Americas (University of Pennsylvania Library).
  2. European travellers to non-Christian countries were often quick to interpret unfamiliar customs and religious practices as evidence of devil worship. We find this charge made by John de Léry and Ralph Fitch against the Brazilians and Indians, respectively. The accusation of Satanism might seem to make the "other" even more alien. Yet, paradoxically, it could also make these peoples seem more familiar, by situating their customs within a Christian/European framework.
    1. What evidence of devil worship do Fitch and Léry describe in their accounts? How does the charge of Satanism fit in with and affect their overall picture of the culture?
    2. Compare these reports of devil worship in far-off lands with accounts of witchcraft and Satanism in Europe, e.g., in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (NAEL 8, 1.1023–55) or the pamphlet Newes From Scotland. What similarities and what differences emerge?
  3. Jean de Léry is greatly moved by the "musical harmony" of the Tupinamba singers, "especially seeing that the barbarians are utterly ignorant of the Art of Music." For early modern Europeans, music could signify and express a divine harmony; but it could also be seen as dangerously seductive and enervating. Compare Léry's account of Tupi singing, and his own response to it, with the representation of music and its effects in one or more of the following:
    1. "Beauty's silent music" in Campion's "Rose-Cheeked Laura".
    2. The music heard in the Bower of the Bliss, in Spenser's Faerie Queene (Book 2, Canto 12, stanzas 70–76; NAEL 8, 1.863–65).
    3. Music as the "food of love" in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (1.1.1–15; NAEL 8, 1.1080).
  4. Jean de Léry's account of Brazil was probably a major source for Montaigne's essay "Of Cannibals." Montaigne's account of the life of noble savages went on in its turn to exert a significant influence over subsequent accounts of New World encounters.
    1. What is common to the images built up by Léry and Montaigne of the Brazilian "cannibals"? Where do their accounts and emphases differ?
    2. Read other "encounter texts" in your anthology, such as Sir Walter Ralegh's The Discovery of the large, rich, and beautiful Empire of Guiana (NAEL 8, 1.923–26) and Thomas Hariot's A brief and true report of the new-found land of Virginia (NAEL 8, 1.939–43). How does the reading of one text inform the other?
  5. Montaigne writes of the Brazilians: "I find (as far as I have been informed), there is nothing in that nation that is either barbarous or savage, unless men call that barbarism which is not common to them."
    1. On what basis does Montaigne come to this conclusion about these people, of whose common practices — cannibalism — had for centuries been for Western Europeans the very definition of barbarism and savagery?
    2. Compare the qualities that Montaigne finds admirable in the Brazilians with those that Barlowe describes in the Virginians (NAEL 8, 1.935–38) and with those that, according to Ovid (NAEL 8, 1.704–05), characterized the inhabitants of the Golden Age.
  6. Peckham sets out strict guidelines to be followed by English colonists in their interactions with native peoples, including when violence may justifiably be used. What evidence do we find in colonial texts (e.g., Ralegh's Discovery [NAEL 8, 1.923–26], or the accounts of Frobisher, Drake, Barlowe, and Hariot [NAEL 8, 1.927–943]) that Peckham's descriptions were or were not followed by the English abroad?
  7. Peckham bases the English claim to the New World on the voyages of a legendary Welsh prince of the twelfth century. This may seem peculiar, given that Wales had only recently been assimilated into the Tudor state, and remained culturally distinct. What does English use of the Madoc legend suggest about the relationship between internal and external colonialism in this period? (You may also wish to consider Spenser's use of Welsh material, including the Arthur legend itself, in The Faerie Queene.)
  8. Peter Mundy witnessed an incident of suttee, the voluntary burning alive of an Indian woman alongside her dead husband. Mundy provides a well-observed record of the event, yet a current of skepticism in his account suggest that he found it difficult to believe what he was seeing. What accounts for the tension between Mundy's factual description and his skeptical speculations? What are his strengths, and what are his limitations as an observer?
  9. John Sanderson brought back six hundred pounds of mummified flesh from the Egyptian pyramids for sale to the apothecaries of London. This substance, known simply as "mummy" was thought to have medicinal value, and sold for a high price; as Thomas Browne put it, "Mummy is become merchandise" (NAEL 8, 1.1592). (You will find other references to "mummy" in Jonson's Volpone [NAEL 8, 1.1396], Webster's Duchess of Malfi [NAEL 8, 1.1512], and Donne's "Love's Alchemy" [NAEL 8, 1.1272].) How does the exotic origin of a commodity like "mummy" affect its perceived value? Can a comparison be drawn between English consumers of "mummy" and those Native Americans who, according to Peckham, regarded glass beads as objects "of high price and estimation"?
  10. It is clear from the accounts of many European explorers that they saw and described largely what they expected to see, relying heavily on pre-established images of the "other." At the same time, many writers were genuinely struck and challenged by unfamiliar peoples, cultures, and landscapes, and strove to put their impressions into words. Pick any two "encounter" texts describing two different non-European peoples (e.g. Frobisher and Lery; Hariot and Fitch; etc.). In comparing them, what evidence do you find of common reliance on established models? What evidence of a genuine response to a specific alien culture?
  11. In an effort to better understand the impulses behind sixteenth-century exploration, you might think about parallels between sixteenth-century global exploration and twentieth-century space travel. What role does the sponsoring nation play in each? In this day and age, what is it about space exploration that we find so attractive? To pursue this question, you might check out the NASA/Mission Operations Laboratory site Liftoff to Space Exploration or do your own search on the Web.

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