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Tongues of FireLanguage and Evangelization in Colonial Mexico$
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Nancy Farriss

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190884109

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190884109.001.0001

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The Art of Persuasion

The Art of Persuasion

(p.255) Chapter 10 The Art of Persuasion
Tongues of Fire

Nancy Farriss

Oxford University Press

Missionaries and their native co-authors incorporated traditional indigenous oratory into Christian sermons in order to persuade, as well as instruct, the Indian neophytes. An analysis of sermons and devotional literature in indigenous languages reveals many examples of the refined style of Mesoamerican ceremonial discourse, especially the most characteristic literary device of paired couplets, or difrasismos. A comparison is made between Renaissance European and Mesoamerican poetics as represented in Mixtec and Zapotec texts, with an emphasis on the miracle stories of Marian devotion and deathbed exhortations. The rhetorical strategy, which relied on privileging familiar indigenous form over alien Christian content, may have gained a more attentive but not necessarily more convinced audience.

Keywords:   poetics, miracle stories, paired couplets, rhetoric, Zapotec, Mixtec, ceremonial discourse, sermons

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