Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Kelly McDonough

thelaernedThe Learned Ones: Nahua Intellectuals in Postconquest Mexico

Connecting contemporary Nahua with the past

They were the healers, teachers, and writers, the “wise ones” of Nahuatl-speaking
cultures in Mexico, remembered in painted codices and early
colonial manuscripts of Mesoamerica as the guardians of knowledge. Yet
they very often seem bound to an unrecoverable past, as stereotypes prevent
some from linking the words “indigenous” and “intellectual” together.
Not so, according to author Kelly S. McDonough, at least not for native
speakers of Nahuatl, one of the most widely spoken and best-documented
indigenous languages of the Americas. This book focuses on how Nahuas
have been deeply engaged with the written word ever since the introduction
of the Roman alphabet in the early sixteenth century. Dipping into distinct
time periods of the past five hundred years, this broad perspective allows
McDonough to show the heterogeneity of Nahua knowledge and writing as
Nahuas took up the pen as agents of their own discourses and agendas.
McDonough worked collaboratively with contemporary Nahua researchers
and students, reconnecting the theorization of a population with the
population itself. The Learned Ones describes the experience of reading
historic text with native speakers today, some encountering Nahua intellectuals
and their writing for the very first time. It intertwines the written word
with oral traditions and embodied knowledge, aiming to retie the strand of
alphabetic writing to the dynamic trajectory of Nahua intellectual work.

Authored by Professor Kelly McDonough

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