English Language & Literature

Signs of the Americas: A Poetics of Pictographs, Hieroglyphs, and Khipu

University of Chicago Press, 2020 


Challenging the popular misconception that the era of pictograph has come to an end, Signs of the Americas shows the “ongoing poetics” of indigenous sign-systems in contemporary life in fields that range from prose and visual arts to political activism and environmental thinking. Challenging colonialism and “its archival logic of supersession,” literary critic Edgar Garcia argues that these sign-systems “have suffered expropriation, misuse, and mistranslation” while still creating “their own systems of knowing and being.” In what one reviewer calls an “ambitious, energizing, and original contribution to various fields of cultural scholarship,” Signs of the Americans seeks to redefine what constitutes a “world” in world literature.

In 2020, Garcia also contributed original poetry to artist Eamon Ore-Giron’s book of paintings, Infinite Regress (Bom Dia Books).

Read about Edgar Garcia's journey from Thomas Jefferson to Latinx Literature at Yale, and his interview with scholar and poet Steven Alvarez in Fence.

“Garcia’s excellent book demonstrates how indigenous sign systems such as pictographs, petroglyphs, hieroglyphs, and khipu continue to communicate to all who know how to activate and interpret them . . . These signs continue to make meaning in that dynamic area between the ‘archive’ and the ‘repertoire,’ animated through use and practice. Signs of the Americas, drawing on contemporary art, activism, and legal practice, makes a compelling argument about why we all need to understand these highly expressive and powerful sign systems.”
 Diana Taylor,
 New York University

Edgar Garcia is a scholar of hemispheric literatures and cultures of the Americas, principally of the 20th century. His work has explored the fields of indigenous and Latino studies, American literature, poetry and poetics, and environmental criticism. He is the author of Skins of Columbus: A Dream Ethnography (Fence Books, 2019). He also co-edited American Literature in the World (Columbia University Press, 2016), which examines the transnational contexts of a national literary tradition. He is the recipient of a BA in English with honors from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as MA, MPhil, and PhD degrees in English from Yale University. He is Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Chicago, where he also teaches in the Department of Creative Writing.