Humanities 110

Introduction to the Humanities

Paper Topics | Spring 2023 | Paper 5

Due Saturday, Februrary 11, 5:00 p.m., to your conference leader

Target length: 1,800 words

Choose one of the following topics:

  1. If a map is “a social construction of the world expressed through the medium of cartography,” and if, “far from holding up a simple mirror of nature that is true or false, maps redescribe the world—like any other document—in terms of relations of power and of cultural practices, preferences, and priorities” (J. B. Harley, The New Nature of Maps: Essays in the History of Cartography [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 35-36; from Margot Minardi’s handout 1.30.23], what is the construction of the social world or the relations of power, cultural practices, preferences, and priorities that the frontispiece of the Codex Mendoza “maps”?
  3. Provide a close reading of one of the flower songs (“Beginning of the Songs” and “Another to the Same Tone, a Plain One” in Cantares Mexicanos: Songs of the Aztecs) in the light of James Maffie's account of Aztec metaphysics in his lecture on January 27.
  5. Analyze the representation of the ordering and passage of time in two of the following Mexica texts: the Tira de la peregrinación, the Codex Mendoza, and/or "Teotlatolli, Teocuilcatl." You might consider the ways in which time is represented as linear or cyclical, as marked by repetition or by rupture. How might the representation of time reflect Mexica ideas about history and the cosmos?
  7. According to the evidence presented in the Codex Mendoza, what were the characteristics of the ideal tlatoani (leader of the city)? To what extent does Motecuhzoma, as presented in the Florentine Codex, meet or fail to meet that ideal?
  9. The Coyolxauhqui monolith, the Tlatecuhtli monolith, and the Coatlicue statue all represent divine figures that incorporate elements of the feminine (see the Templo Mayor gallery #29-30, #48, #49-50, respectively, for images of these sculptures). In a formal analysis of two of these sculptures, compare how they represent the possibilities and limitations of feminine divine power. You may find it helpful to consult the birth myth of Huitzilopochtli, which refers to both Coyolxauhqui and Coatlicue; it might also be worth remembering that all three of these sculptures were found at or near the Templo Mayor complex.
  11. The Codex Mendoza tells the story of Tenochtitlan and the Mexica through at least three forms or formats: the map of the city, the historical narrative of its rise to power, and the tribute lists. Compare the stories told by these different forms. Do they highlight or promote the same elements? How does the form shape or affect the story told?
  13. Compare the depictions of Motecuhzoma and Cortés in the Florentine Codex and Bernal Díaz's Conquest of New Spain.  What do the different texts emphasize: positionality, agency, physicality, character?  What roles do the texts ascribe to these leaders in the unfolding of events during the battle for Tenochtitlán?
  15. In consultation with your instructor, write on a topic of your own devising.