Book cover for Cotton Mather's Spanish Lessons

Cotton Mather’s Spanish Lessons: What Early America Teaches Us about Latinidad

With Kirsten Silva Gruesz

Thursday September 8, 2022, at 7pm ET

Approx. 1 hour

This hybrid program will be held in person at Antiquarian Hall and livestreamed to a virtual audience on YouTube. Closed captioning will be available for virtual attendees. COVID-19 vaccinations are required for all in person visitors. Doors open at 6:30pm and we encourage you to arrive early to present your proof of vaccination.

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The Boston minister Cotton Mather was the first English colonial to refer to himself as an American. He was also the first to author a Spanish-language publication: La Fe del Christiano (The Faith of the Christian), a Protestant tract intended to evangelize readers across the Spanish Americas. In her new book Cotton Mather’s Spanish Lessons: A Story of Language, Race, and Belonging in the Early Americas (Harvard University Press, 2022), Kirsten Silva Gruesz offers a fresh take on this key colonial intellectual and his understanding of linguistic and human difference. Drawing extensively on the Mather Family Collection at the American Antiquarian Society, Gruesz explores the conditions that prompted Mather to learn a rival empire’s language, including the presence of “Spanish Indian” servants in his household and connects his work to earlier Indigenous language missiology in Mexico and Florida. The story of this “Little Book” shows how nascent ideas about race and ethnicity were linked to language in ways that remain foundational to ideas of Latina/o/x belonging in the United States today.

Headshot of Kirsten Silva GrueszKirsten Silva Gruesz is Professor of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She received her BA in History from Swarthmore College and her PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University. She is the author of Ambassadors of Culture: The Transamerican Origins of Latino Writing (Princeton University Press, 2002), Cotton Mather’s Spanish Lessons: A Story of Language, Race, and Belonging in the Early Americas (Harvard University Press, 2022), and of over two dozen published essays about Spanish-language print culture in the U.S. from the colonial period to the present. The recipient of an NEH Faculty Research Fellowship and a Frederick Burckhardt Fellowship from the ACLS, she serves on the Editorial Board of Early American Literature and the MLA Forum on Early American Literature, and the Board of Supervisors of the English Institute. Gruesz was elected to AAS membership in 2011.

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