Portuguese literature

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Portuguese literature,

writings in Portuguese. The literature of Brazil is considered separately (see Brazilian literatureBrazilian literature,
the writings of both the European explorers of Brazil and its later inhabitants. The Colonial Period

Upon the discovery of Brazil, the Portuguese began to describe the wonders of the new land.
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Early Works

Literature in the Portuguese language first emerged in lyric poetry, the courtly love poems collected in cancioneiros [song books]. The earliest of these, three in number, are the Cancioneiro da Ajuda, da Vaticana, and Colocci-Brancuti, written in the 13th cent. In the early 20th cent. the scholarly work of Carolina Micaëlis de VasconcelosMicaëlis de Vasconcelos, Carolina
, 1851–1925, Portuguese scholar, b. Berlin. As a youth she gained a considerable reputation as a Romance philologist. After her marriage in 1876, she moved to Portugal.
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 on the Cancioneiro da Ajuda opened large vistas into the past of Portuguese literature. The early poems were greatly influenced by the Provençal language and literature, but they had the individual flavor and meter of Portuguese and Galician, then a dialect of Portuguese (see Provençal literatureProvençal literature,
vernacular literature of S France. Provençal, or Occitan, as the language is now often called, appears to have been the first vernacular tongue used in French commerce and literature.
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). King Dinis, who ruled Portugal in the late 13th and early 14th cent., was an accomplished poet and, like his father, Alfonso III, followed the Provençal custom of encouraging poetic activity in his court.

Prose writing took longer to develop. Religious and historical writings ultimately led to the romances of chivalry, the progenitor of which, Amadis of GaulAmadis of Gaul
, Fr. Amadis de Gaule , famous prose romance of chivalry, first composed in Spain or Portugal and probably based on French sources. Entirely fictional, it dates from the 13th or 14th cent.
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, most likely originated in Portugal. Among the greatest achievements of medieval Portuguese prose are the vivid and well-documented chronicles written by Fernão Lopes (c.1380–c.1460) and Gomes Eanes de Zurara (c.1420–c.1474). Portuguese poetry in the 15th cent. was marked by the influence of Spain, which can be seen in Garcia de Resende's collection, Cancioneiro geral (1516).

The Renaissance through the Seventeenth Century

The impact of the Renaissance in Portugal was particularly strong in poetry and drama. The plays of Gil VicenteVicente, Gil
, 1470?–1536?, Portuguese dramatist and poet, considered second only to Camões. Vicente was attached to the courts of the Portuguese kings Manuel I and John II, and he may have been identical with, or related to, an accomplished goldsmith of the same
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, who wrote in both Portuguese and Spanish, are infused with the Renaissance spirit, particularly the ideals of humanism. The Italianate school strongly influenced 16th-century Portuguese poetry. The humanist Francisco de Sá de MirandaSá de Miranda, Francisco de
, 1481–1558, Portuguese writer. A noble and a courtier, he lived for a time in Italy and became acquainted with the literature of the Italian Renaissance.
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 introduced new poetic forms upon his return from Italy. He, Diogo BernardesBernardes, Diogo
, c.1530–c.1600, Portuguese poet. A follower of Sá de Miranda, he wrote melodious pastoral verse, and was one of the chief poets of the Portuguese Renaissance. The official poet on the tragic expedition that ended at Alquazarquivir, he was later pensioned.
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, and others mastered the new forms of lyric poetry, which reached their highest point in the works of Luis de CamõesCamões or Camoens, Luís de
, 1524?–1580, Portuguese poet, the greatest figure in Portuguese literature.
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. Camões, known for his national epic Os Lusídas [the Portuguese] (1572), was also the author of a superb body of lyric poems. Sá de Miranda and his followers also introduced the prose comedy and tragedy into Portugal.

The Renaissance saw a spate of writing by historians who chronicled the discoveries and conquests in Africa, Asia, and America. João de Barros ranks among the best of these. The Portuguese Bernardim RibeiroRibeiro, Bernardim
, 1482?–1552?, Portuguese poet. Ribeiro was a figure at the Lisbon court and is said to have gone mad after an unhappy love affair. Saudades, or Menina e moça (1554), recounts the affair.
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's pastoral novel Menina e Moça [the book of the young girl] (1554) was certainly the inspiration in part for the Spanish Jorge de Montemayor's Diana (1559), one of the most important novels in Spanish literature. The leading figures of the 17th cent. were the poet Francisco Rodrigues Lobo (1580–1622) and the prose writer Francisco Manuel de Melo (1608–66), whose writings stand out in a century mainly marked by subservience to Spanish form and style, especially Gongorism.

Literary Movements of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

The 18th cent. developed gradually into the literary revolution that was the romantic movement (see romanticismromanticism,
term loosely applied to literary and artistic movements of the late 18th and 19th cent. Characteristics of Romanticism

Resulting in part from the libertarian and egalitarian ideals of the French Revolution, the romantic movements had in common only a
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). Liberal ideas from abroad invaded every branch of letters and learning. João B. de Almeida GarrettGarrett, João Batista de Almeida
, 1799–1854, Portuguese dramatist, poet, journalist, and orator, leader of the romantic movement in Portugal. After a period in the Azores he returned to graduate from the Univ. of Coimbra.
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, the chief exponent of French-inspired romanticism, exercised great influence over a generation of poets, playwrights, and novelists. Through his historical novels, a history of Portugal, and numerous pamphlets and journalistic endeavors, Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho e AraújoHerculano de Carvalho e Araújo, Alexandre
, 1810–77, Portuguese historian. One of the outstanding thinkers of his time, he is considered the first modern Portuguese historian.
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 provided substantial support for the romantic, liberal, and anticlerical movements that helped shape Portuguese culture and politics in the 19th cent.

A group of dissident poets, including Antero de QuentalQuental, Antero de
, 1842–91, Portuguese poet. A brilliant student at the Univ. of Coimbra, he led the Coimbra dissidents in their opposition to the monarchy and to romanticism. He worked for a time in Lisbon organizing the Portuguese Socialist party.
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, Téofilo BragaBraga, Teófilo
, 1843–1924, Portuguese intellectual and political leader, b. Ponta Delgada in the Azores. At the Univ. of Coimbra he was a member of the positivist circle of Quental. In 1871 he began to teach at the Univ.
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, and Abílio Manuel Guerra JunqueiroGuerra Junqueiro, Abílio
, 1850–1923, Portuguese poet. A revolutionary, he wrote violent satiric poems attacking conservatism, romanticism, and the Church. Typical are A morte de Dom Jõas (1874) and A velhice do Padre Eterno (1885).
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, revolted against romanticism and laced their works with philosophical and social ideas. José Maria Eça de QueirozQueiroz or Queirós, José Maria Eça de
, 1845–1900, Portuguese writer. Trained in law, he moved to Lisbon in 1866 and was part of a group devoted to a literature that would promote social
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 introduced realism into the novel and set the tone for the next half century. Historiography, of a more narrative than scientific sort, flourished at the same time. Joaquim P. de Oliveira Martins was one of the more popular writers of this genre.

The Twentieth Century

The modern period in Portuguese letters dates from the establishment of the republic in 1910. Various writers fostered suadosismo, a cult of nostalgia and regret over an unrecoverable and mythic past. Later writing became more sensitive to developments in other countries. Fernando PessoaPessoa, Fernando
(Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa) , 1888–1935, Portuguese poet, b. Lisbon. He moved to Durban, South Africa, as a child, becoming bilingual (Portuguese, English); in 1905 he returned to Portugal and studied at the Univ. of Lisbon for a year.
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, largely unrecognized during his lifetime, would be acclaimed later as the greatest modern Portuguese poet, and José Régio distinguished himself as a poet and playwright. The novel was cultivated by Aquilino Ribeiro, J. M. Ferreira de Castro, Alves Redol, Fernando Namora, Agustina Bessa Luís, and others.

In the early 1970s Portuguese literary circles were shaken by the publication of a volume of collected notes, stories, letters, and poems by Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta, and Maria Velho da Costa. Banned because of its erotic and feminist nature, the book was allowed to circulate after the collapse of the Salazar dictatorship in Apr., 1974. In the United States the book was published as The Three Marias: New Portuguese Letters (1975).

Reflecting the influence of French literary theory, Portuguese literature since 1974 has often focused on the linguistic and technical aspects of narrative. Important contemporary novelists include José Cardosa-Piresa, Olga Gonçalves, Lídia Jorge, António Lobo Antunes, and José SaramagoSaramago, José
, 1922–2010, Portuguese novelist and short-story writer. He became a member of the Communist party in 1969 and was a staunch atheist and a strong opponent of globalization and the increasing power of multinational corporations.
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, who is internationally recognized as one of the great modern writers of fiction (he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998). Important poets include Eugénio de Andrade and António Ramos Rosa.

The late 20th cent. also saw the rise of Portuguese literature in Africa: in Angola, the poet Agostinho NetoNeto, Agostinho
, 1927–79, first president of independent Angola. A Portuguese-educated physician and poet, he founded the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in 1956, directing the war of liberation against Portugal from exile with East bloc support.
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 and the novelist Luadino Vieira; in Mozambique, the novelist Luís Bernardo Howana; in Cape Verde, the novelists Manuel Lopes, Orlanda Amarilis, and Manuel Ferreira.


See B. Vidigal, ed. Oxford Book of Portuguese Verse (2d ed. 1952); A. F. G. Bell, Portuguese Literature (rev. ed. 1970); R. Sousa, The Rediscoverers (1981); M. J. Schneider and I. Stern, Modern Spanish and Portuguese Literatures (1988).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
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