Thèse : Aztec picture-writing: A critical study based on the Codex Mendoza’s place-name signs
- Robertson, Janice Lynn
- Brilliant, Richard. Directeur
- Columbia University, 2005, 485 p.
- Ph. D.
The Spaniards who first disembarked on the shores of Veracruz were mistaken for gods, in part because they seemed to come out of nowhere. After two days of looking, a shaman began to see the massive galleons rising out of the ocean waves. They were real enough, but the material did not fit any preconceived pattern; they became visible to the community at large only after the language to communicate about them had been put in place.
Modern investigators, intent on isolating objects and defining each in its own right, have arrived at mutually exclusive concepts of art and writing, when in fact each has contributed to the historical shaping of the other. Profound investigations of each entity become possible, but it’s virtually impossible to acknowledge the give and take between them. Aztec picture-writing falls between the disciplinary cracks of most present-day investigations, for it doesn’t fit well within either category. This dissertation begins with that problem and proceeds to loosen the knots of the print-oriented, text-based logic that anchors our categorical notions. This paves the way for not only a renewed understanding and investigation of Aztec picture-writing, but a history heretofore unforeseen.
In a book review recently published in Art Bulletin (December 2001), Jeffrey Quilter, Director of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, points to some present-day boundaries and challenges his colleagues to surmount them: “If Pre-Columbian art history is to take its rightful place in the halls of art history departments, it has to find ways to contribute something to the discipline that cannot be provided through the study of Renaissance art, the Impressionists, and the like.” This dissertation uses ‘New World’ material to reveal ‘Old World’ conceptual constructs and begins to make good on that challenge.