Humanities 110

Introduction to the Humanities

Paper Topics | Spring 2021 | Paper 5

Due Sunday, February 21, 5:00 p.m. This deadline has been extended by two days due to snow. Ask your conference leader where and how to submit your paper.

Target length: 1,800-2.000 words

1. The Tira de la Peregrinación represents the migration of the Mexica people from their homeland of Aztlan using imagery and a pictographic, proto-writing system. The journey is not smooth, and progresses in several distinct stages. How does the Tira use pattern, repetition, and variation in both the imagery and pictograms to create a narrative? Where do the images and pictograms work in tandem? Where, if ever, do they function separately?

2. Both the 1524 Nuremberg map that Barbara Mundy discusses in her article and the first page of the Codex Mendoza depict the physical space of the city of Tenochtitlan, and both of these sources are, in their own ways, products of sixteenth-century encounters between the Mexica and the Spanish. How do these two maps compare in terms of how they represent space, power, and human agency? In explaining the similarities and differences between the maps, you might think about how each of them reflects interactions between the Mexica and the Spanish.

3. Book 12 of the Florentine Codex relates the fall of Tenochtitlan in three ways: through narratives in Nahuatl, narratives in Spanish, and with ink-and-watercolor pictures. The Spanish text is not a literal translation of the Nahuatl text, but differs from the Nahuatl in varying degrees. Focusing on two or three distinct episodes of Book 12, analyze the discrepancies between the two sets of texts, and discuss how the pictorial account accompanying the texts relates to the two versions. What assumptions or values might be inferred from the differences between the two textual accounts?

4. The Lienzo de Tlaxcala represents the woman known as Malinche, Malintzin, or Doña Marina in multiple settings and situations (see the Gallery for the major examples). Does the Lienzo make a consistent argument about Malinche’s role in the conquest of Tenochtitlan? How do the different “cells” depict her relation to other figures and involvement in events? 

5. How does the iconography of the Templo Mayor and its surroundings represent the relationship between creation and destruction? Base your analysis on at least two artifacts in the Templo Mayor gallery, such as the monoliths of Coyolxauhqui and/or Tlatecuhtli, the Coatlicue statue (unearthed near the Templo Mayor complex), and/or the architecture of the temple itself.

6. The “Song of the Warrior Women of Chalco,” composed by Aquiauhtzin of Ayapanco, was performed by some men from Chalco at the Tlatoani’s palace in Tenochtitlan shortly after the Mexicas conquered Chalco in 1465. The song combines explicit sexual imagery with the language of war and conquest. Analyze closely any two sections of the song (see the alternate translation linked on the syllabus for the numbered sections of the poem), and discuss how the song uses erotic imagery to express the political tensions between Tenochtitlan and the towns of Chalco. (You may use any one of the translations provided.) How does it challenge the power of the tlatoani Axayacatl and the subjugation of Chalco? Consider how the genre of ‘flower and song’ is crucial for understanding the text, and pay particular attention to the context of its performance described in Fifteen Poets of the Aztec World, pages 255-267.