Journeys of Redemption: Discoveries, Re-discoveries and Cinematic Representations of the Americas

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Journeys of Redemption utilizes the concept of redemption to consider how the Americas are contextualized topologically and chronologically, and, as such, how these spaces are given narrative meaning. By relying upon a definition of redemption that simultaneously considers spiritual deliverance with material recovery, the Americas become, at once, interpretable as contested grounds and promised destinations.

Following Chapter One, the "Introduction" to this project, Chapter Two provides the methodological foundation, describing theoretical approaches towards a definition of redemption that will serve as the underlying basis for my argument. The following chapters all apply redemption in readings of films that may be categorized as captivity narratives. Chapter Three considers how Bruce Beresford's 1991 film, Black Robe, utilizes redemption in its depiction of a Jesuit priest's interactions with Indigenous groups (such as the Huron and Iroquois) in seventeenth-century French Canada. Chapter Four examines redemption in the Brazilian film Como Era Gostoso o Meu Francês (Nelson Pereira dos Santos, 1971). This film about a nameless Frenchman's captivity among the sixteenth-century Tupinambás, illustrates the ways in which redemption has functioned, and continues to function, as a foundational contributor to colonial and nationalist projects. Chapter Five focuses on Cabeza de Vaca (Echevarría, 1991), a Mexican film recounting Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's historic sixteenth-century trek across much of North America. The spiritual focus of this film is studied in terms of how it both challenges and corroborates the historical Cabeza de Vaca's own accounts of redemption. Chapter Six considers filmic representations of borders and border crossings, thereby examining how the Americas become shaped by distinction and congruence, how the terrain of this hemisphere becomes, at once, the ever receding Promised Land and a space in dire need of redemption and exorcism. The French film Le Salaire de la peur (Clouzot, 1953) is here compared to the German film Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Herzog, 1973) in an attempt to elucidate how both of these texts create senses of displacement through their associations of the Americas with perdition. Finally, Chapter Seven attempts to juxtapose my readings of redemption in the contexts of pilgrimage, the Americas, and film.