Shared Experience

Smith and Watson’s ideas of Experience are quite influential in relation to Cabeza de Vaca’s narrative. It is important to consider how Cabeza de Vaca’s account relies heavily on personal experience in the exploration of foreign worlds. In class we discussed the intention of the narrative and how its audience processes this very foreign information. Smith and Watson discuss the idea of audience explaining that the narrator is not the only person engaged in the interpretation of experience. They explain that the reader “is also historically embedded, our understanding of what counts as experience historically situated” (243). This notion places the reader into the shoes of the narrator forming a bond of collective experience whether it be fabricated or not.

In one instance, Cabeza de Vaca details how the feeling of being isolated in a foreign culture poses many problems. In turn, his narrative of feeling brings the reader into the experience and helps to constitute how Experience in Smith and Watson’s terms – Narrators become readers of their experiential histories, bringing discursive schema that are culturally available to them to bear on what has happened – plays a critical role in the interpretation of the text (33). For example, Cabeza de Vac

a explains, “…We were traveling mute, that is, without interpreters, through an area where we could hardly make ourselves understood by the Indians or learn about the land what we desired to know…” (57). The sense of communicative isolation is hard to ignore as a reader. As a result, the relationship between reader and author helps to constitute the collective experience necessary in the absorption of the narrative.

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