Spilling Spanish Ink: Poetry, Politics and Bilingualism in 17th-Century Portugal
My talk at the Newhouse addresses Portuguese author Francisco Manuel de Melo's Obras Métricas (1665). Written in Spanish and Portuguese, the OM stands out as an example of the literary bilingualism cultivated by poets in Portugal. However, in light of anti-Spanish sentiment during Portugal's war of independence from Spain (1640-68), and Melo's involvement in it, this poetry collection invites further scrutiny.
Given what we know about the author's arrest in Spain, decade-long imprisonment in Portugal, and subsequent exile to Brazil, I argue that the Obras Métricas' bilingualism reflects the uneasy cultural and political allegiances that Melo sustained throughout most of his itinerant life. My work therefore examines the rhetorical strategies employed to describe the contrasts and continuities between Spanish and Portuguese. Moreover, I analyze how Melo simultaneously signals his commitment to the cause of Portuguese national sovereignty while expressing admiration for the literature of neighboring Spain. I suggest that Melo engages these issues through the concept of imitatio, or poetic imitation: a set of ideas pertaining to how poetry should be written that were common throughout the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Finally, I explore the potential in reading the Obras Métricas as an example of transnational Iberian cultural production.
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