Aura, ambivalence, and allure: The Portuguese in modern American literary spaces

Cristina J Baptista, Fordham University


“Aura, Ambivalence, and Allure: The Portuguese in Modern American Literary Spaces” argues that modern American understandings of self and national identity emerged in relation to changing depictions of the Portuguese. Authors treated include Mark Twain, Frank Norris, Jack London, John Steinbeck, Edith Wharton, T. S. Eliot, Charles Olson, Joyce Carol Oates, and Elizabeth Bishop. While early twentieth-century American literature depicts Lusos as ignorant and swarthy figures, mid- and late twentieth-century texts dramatize the necessity of a Portuguese presence in catalyzing romantic visions of the self. “Aura, Ambivalence, and Allure” showcases how American writers of the late-nineteenth century through the present have gone from writing about the Portuguese, to writing through them, and, ultimately, to writing beyond the Portuguese. Drawing especially on the ambiguous status of the Portuguese as both “white” and “other,” writers used Portuguese surrogates to explore various forms of personal and identificatory transformation and renewal. The exploration of Portuguese presence—from the country, people, culture, and language—continues to shape and inform American literature and national identity.

Subject Area

Modern literature|American literature

Recommended Citation

Baptista, Cristina J, "Aura, ambivalence, and allure: The Portuguese in modern American literary spaces" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3560055.