Humanities 110

Introduction to the Humanities

Paper Topics | Spring 2022 | Paper 6

Due Saturday, March 12, 5:00 p.m., to your conference leader. 

Target length: 1,800-2,000 words

Choose one of the following topics:

  1. Compare the religious conversion depicted in the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s “Loa to Narcissus” with this panel of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala. You might consider how they characterize the use of force and threat in conversion and how they characterize the role of human will.

  1. Compare the characterization of Doña Marina in the “Lienzo de Tlaxcala” with that of Hernán Cortés or the Virgin Mary in the same Lienzo. Or, alternatively, compare the characterization of Doña Marina in the Lienzo de Tlaxcala with her representation in José Clemente Orozco's “Cortés y Malintzin”. 

  1. Magali Carrera argues that “casta paintings do not illustrate race but instead locate it in the intersection of certain physical, economic, and social spaces of late colonial Mexico” (38). Analyzing two casta paintings in detail, explore how they naturalize race and racial categories through their construction of spaces, styles, and ways of life.

  1. Laura Leibman argued that who looks within the scenes depicted by the casta paintings, how they look and what they look at, represent an important means through which the paintings create racial and social hierarchies. Compare the operations of looking in two casta paintings with that in Sor Juana’s poem 132 (“Smooth brow…”). Who gets to look, and what is looked at? Are the gazes similar? Is the audience/spectator located in a similar relation to the characters?

  2. Discuss how the depictions of race, in specific Mexican casta paintings and/or specific panels of Diego Rivera’s murals at the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico City, both acknowledge Mexico as a racially diverse society while creating explicitly racialized social hierarchies and roles. In your analysis, pay close attention to the composition of the paintings. Topics you might consider are the interrelation of race and performance (particularly in terms of costume), race and gender, race and economic class, race and political authority, and race and family structure.

  3. In composing her “Reply to Sor Filotea” Sor Juana is locked in a “double bind” – a situation with two irreconcilable demands in which addressing one of the demands aggravates the other. She has been rebuked by a powerful patron for intellectual arrogance and admonished to be quiet; she disagrees with the criticism, but to write in her own defense only further supports the charge that she is disobedient and arrogant. How does Sor Juana confront this double bind, to defend her learning and writing while not confirming Sor Filotea’s accusation that she is disrespectful of authority? In your answer, pay close attention to Sor Juana’s specific compositional choices: how she represents herself and her use of autobiography; her analogies; her invocations of intellectual and scriptural authority; and the narrow arguments she puts forward in her defense.

  4. How do Frida Kahlo’s and María Izquierdo’s representations of women reimagine Mexican identity? And how does this representation differ from the work of muralists such as Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros? 

  5. The depiction of violence is central to both Elena Poniatowska’s Massacre in Mexico and Luís Buñuel’s movie, The Young and the Damned [Los Olvidados]. Focusing on either of the two works, discuss how the work portrays the social and/or historical effects of violence.

  6. Choose at least one of the Zapatista texts and put it in dialogue with one of the following sources: Morelos’s “Sentiments of the Nation,” Iturbide’s “Plan of Iguala,” El Tiempo’s “A Conservative Profession of Faith,” Otero’s “Considerations,” the constitution of 1917, the Plan of Ayala. In what ways do the Zapatistas seem to share the social and political vision of the other source you have chosen, and in what ways do they seem to diverge from it? Based on your analysis, should the Zapatistas be understood as building upon or rejecting political and social ideals expressed at earlier periods in Mexican history?