Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Comparative Literature


Laurence De Looze


The works of Thevet and Léry reveal the emergence of ethnographic genres in the 16th century as debates about religion coincided with rediscovered Greek epistemological methods and principles. A spirit of contestation based on Catholic and Huguenot rivalries motivated the two authors to write down their own historicized accounts of their travels to Fort Coligny – a French colonial outpost in Brazil – during the 1550s. Both authors describe the Tupinamba “savages” in two distinct modes of writing: topography and cosmography. I argue that Léry writes a topography of the Tupi following the distinction made by Michel de Montaigne – i.e., he describes an inhabited place with fidelity, precision, and empirical rigour, albeit from a Calvinist moral position. Thevet, by contrast, writes a cosmography that uses analogy, and Catholic and Aristotelian perspectives to reduce Tupi cultural forms to singularities existing within a universal order.