Formation of a National Myth
The Portuguese Nun describes the foundation and development of the myth of Soror Mariana and illuminates its continuing investment in the fabrication, byt he country's cultural elite, of a shared national imagination. It examines the process of national reappropriation of the text from the Romantic period until its latest, postmodern manifestations exemplified most remarkably by the feminist manifesto Novas Cartas Poruguesas [New Poruguese Letters]. From its first "retranslations" into Poruguese in the early nineteenth century, this slim collection of five love letters has retained its status of a somewhat improbable textual support for one of Portugals' most persistently cultivated cultural fictions.
In Klobucka's interpretation, the account of the invention of The Poruguese Nun by the Portuguese forms an allegorical correlative to cultural negotiation of identity accompanying, particularly since the last decades of the nineteenth century, the gradually unfolding drama of Portuguese marginality in Europe and the world. Mariana's predicament - as female, as provincial, leading a cloistered and uninspiring existence, abandoned by a dashing French lover, and longing helplessly for the absent man and his faraway country - resonated in multiple and often contradictory ways with Portuguese intellectuals attempting to come to terms with the crisis of nationalist and imperial ideology brought about by progressive marginialization of Portugal with regard to such European colonial powers as, most notably, France and England. At the same time, the international fame of the Lettres portugaises came to function as a compensatory measure akin to celebrations of the historical legacy represented by the Portuguese Discoveries, another "invented tradition" that gained currency against the same social and political background.
About the author:
Anna Klobucka received an M.A. in Iberian Studies from the University of Warsaw and a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard. She teaches Portuguese, Brazilian, and Lusophone African literatures and cultures at the University of Georgia. She is coeditor (with Helena Kaufman) of After the Revolution: Twenty Years of Portuguese Literature 1974-1994 (Bucknell University Press, 1997). Her published research deals primarily with works of twentieth-century Portuguese and Brazilian writers, as well as with the theory and practice of feminist criticism in the context of Luso-Brazilian literature and culture. She has also written about construction of collective identities in national cultures of the European periphery. Her articles have appeared in Luso-Brazilian Review, Colóquio/Letras, Sub-Stance, Estudos Portugueses e Africanos, and symploke, among other journals.