Megan Langford
English 341
April 10, 1998

Final Paper Proposal

I plan to use Foucault and Queer Studies to explain the berdache as presence in the New World when the Spanish conquistadors came and conquered the native peoples. Included in this explanation will be the response of the Spaniards to the different and "sinful" gender as is present in resources below as well as in the de Bry etchings depicting "hermaphrodites." I want to approach Queer Theory specifically with consideration for the social construction of gender, the role of power as a means of defining gender and its complexities, and the concept of sexuality among both native groups and the European conquerors. I am using Queer Theory because I feel it applies directly to the confrontation between these two entirely different cultures, each with their own conception of gender and sexuality.

I plan to analyze the de Bry paintings/etchings as a means of visualizing the berdache in the eyes of the Spaniard. Specifically I will be using, "Indians Being Attacked By Greyhounds," "Bringing in Wild Animals, Fish and Other Stores," and "Hermaphrodites As Laborers."

Link to Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory

Link to Queer Theory


Bucher, Bernadette. Icon and Conquest, A Structural Analysis of the
Illustrations of de Bry's Great Voyages. Basia Miller Bulati, (tr.)
(Chicago, 1981).

Bucher addresses the symbolism present in de Bry's works. Concerning those including "hermaphrodites," she identifies the sagging breasts of females and long flowing hair on males. She identifies the sexual ambiguity present in both their appearance and function. Their clothing, appearance, and strenuous labor not only separate them from other characters present in the etchings, but also work to explain their social function.

Sedgwick, Eva Kosofsky. The Epistemology of the Closet.. (Berkeley, 1990).

This book focuses on analyzing the representations of sexuality, sex, and gender. Understanding them as concepts both separate and distanced from each other, and involving a wide range of concepts from the very personal and intimate to the socially prescribed.

Trexler, Richard C. Sex and Conquest.. (Ithaca, 1995).

Chapters 3 - 6 specifically address the berdache in the context of the village and the hostile environment of war. Trexler examines the role of the berdache gender in their society including religion and political roles; when and how an individual male or female may become a berdache; and the role the berdache plays in the family setting. Trexler considers the berdache in the setting of the arrival of Spain and the image of the berdache the Spaniards would have witnessed.


Colonial Art