Peripheral Wonders

Margaret R. Ewalt

Nature, Knowledge, and Enlightenment in the Eighteenth-Century Orinoco

258 pages
ISBN 1611482904
Bucknell Studies in Eighteenth Century Literature and Culture

This book expands traditional conceptions of the Enlightenment by examining the roles of wonder and Jesuit missionary conceptions of the Enlightenment by examining the century in a production of knowledge that serves both intellectual and religious functions. Ewalt analyzes a variety of classical and sacred rhetorical techniques for vivid persuasion that illuminate the simultaneously spiritual and scientific discourse employed by Joseph Gumilla in El Orinoco ilustrado (1741, 45), a text that concretizes an eclectic, Catholic Enlightenment that unites sentiment and reason, allows for emotion within scientific inquiry, and employs the strategy of wonder to accumulate, enumerate, and disseminate knowledge. Ewalt's work complements and extends studies proposing new and more inclusive Enlightenment models that challenge secular prejudices and reconsiders the assumption of European centrality by taking into account the Americas and other peripheral areas where modernity was redefined rather than resisted.


"Peripheral Wonders is an acutely observed and carefully argued book that combines close textual analysis with a broader historical perspective . . . . Ewalt's reappraisal of Gumilla's work complements a growing body of scholarship that challenges traditional understandings of Enlightenment. It makes a persuasive case for reconsidering the role of the Jesuits in this movement and it contributes to current debates on the role of the periphery and indigenous people in the creation of European knowledge." --Helen Cowie, University of Warwick (Bulletin of Spanish Studies, 87.4, 2010)

"...Ewalt's book provides a very useful, well-informed and competent study that will not only remedy the long neglect of Gumilla's important eighteenth-century natural history but also compliment a growing body of scholarship on Jesuit knowledge and the important role Catholic Spain played in the making of scientific modernity." -- Ralph Bauer, University of Maryland, College Park (Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 87.7, 2010)

"Margaret E. Ewalt's Peripheral Wonders...identifies Enlightenment ideas and their influence...through Joseph Gumilla's El Orinoco and other books by Jesuit missionary naturalists...Ewalt places Gumilla's writing within the Jesuit tradition of applying knowledge and methodologies from their rigorous education with fieldwork and firsthand descriptions of people and nature. The account of the Jesuit missionaries' encounters with and opinions about the Amerindians is...thought-provoking."

Paula R. Backscheider, "Recent Studies in the Restoration and Eighteenth Century." Studies in English Literature 2009: 758.

"Full conversant with the new readings of the Ibero-American eighteenth century that stress the cosmopolitan and enlightened content of clerical discourse, Ewalt offers a perceptive reading that highlights this view for specialists and interdisciplinary scholars alike."

Clorinda Donato, New Perspectives on the Eighteenth-Century 2010: 94.

About the author:

Margaret R. Ewalt, a native of Millinocket, Maine, is Associate Professor of Spanish at Wake Forest University. Her articles have appeared in Dieciocho: Hispanic Enlightenment, SECC: Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture, Torre de Papel, and The Colorado Review of Hispanic Studies. Her work on transatlantic eighteenth-century natural histories has been published in two anthologies: Redes y espacios de opinión pública: De la Ilustración al Romaticisimo. Cádiz, América y Europa ante la Modernidad (2006) and El Saber de los jesuitas, historias naturales y el Nuevo Mundo (2005).


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