This book intervenes in transatlantic and hemispheric studies by positing "America" as not a particular country or continent but a foundational narrative, in which conquerors arrive at a shore intent on overwriting local versions of humanity, culture, and landscape with inscriptions of their own design. This imposition of foreign textualities, however dominant, is never complete because the absences of the disappeared still linger manifestly, still are present. That apparent paradox results in a haunted America, whose conquest is always partial and whose conquered are always contestatory.
Readers of scholarship by transatlanticists such as Paul Gilroy and hemispherists such as Diana Taylor will find new conceptualizations here of an America that knows no geographic boundaries, whose absences are collective but not necessarily interrelated by genealogy. The five principal texts at hand - Columbus's diary of his first voyage, the Popol Vuh of the Maya-K'iche', Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Evita's Cuando los Combes luchaban (the first African novel in Spanish), and Pynchon's Mason & Dixon - are examined as foundational stories of America in their imaginings of its transatlantic commencement. Interspersed too are shorter studies of narratives by William Carlos Williams, Rigoberta Menchú, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, José Martí, Mark Knopfler (former lead singer of Dire Straits) and Gabriel García Márquez. These texts are rarely if ever read together because of their discrete provenances in time and place, yet their juxtaposition reveals how the disjunctions and ruptures that took place on the eastern and western shores of the Atlantic upon the arrival of Europeans became insinuated as recurring and resistant absences in narratives ostensibly contextualized by the Conquest.
The book concludes by proposing that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is the great American novel.
After Specters of Conquest: Indigenous Absence in Transatlantic Literatures, America will never seem the same.