Sofia Morabito (University of Pisa)


With a PhD in Portuguese and Brazilian Literature, Sofia Morabito has worked on Portuguese (Ruben A., Sophia de Mello Breyner, etc.), Brazilian (Guimarães Rosa) and African (Pepetela) contemporary literature. She has also dedicated herself to translation, an area in which she won the first Claris Appiani Prize for literary translation for her version of Fidalgo Aprendiz, co-written with Valeria Tocco. She is currently carrying out a post-doc project on Castilian translations of Frei Heitor Pinto’s Imagem da vida cristã at the University of Pisa.

«Center» and «¨Periphery»: An Alternative Modernism in the Dialogue between Colonial and Postcolonial Portuguese Language Literature

From the second half of the 20th century onwards, the need to establish a critical and ideologically committed dialogue with the writers of the Great Tradition became widespread in the countries of the former British Empire, revisiting some “classics” of the Western canon in order to highlight the limits of the Eurocentric representation of colonial history,restoring voice and dignity to characters who had been silenced for too long (Said 1993; Ashcroft 2002).However, a phenomenon such as the so-called “writing back”, so active and prolific in the former British colonies, is almost completely absent in the former territories of the Portuguese Empire. Why do writers belonging to the so-called “provincias ultamarinas” not feel the same urgency to redeem their identity and their past through subversive rewriting processes aimed at challenging the literature of the Portuguese “canon”? Are the reasons for such a difference not, perhaps, the consequence of the «cultural and sociopolitical marginality» of a Portugal whose «literary canon that merged the European modernist heritage, the persistence of local paradigms and the obsessive questioning of the Portuguese identity within the framework of Western culture»?This contribution aims to identify texts produced in Portuguese-speaking African territories in the second half of the 20th century that respond – albeit partially -to a model similar to that of re-visionary fiction (Widdowson 2006). The first objective will be to detect and analyze the various narrative strategies through which post-modernist authors such as António Quadro, Mia Couto, José Eduardo Agualusa and Arménio Viera reinterpret and redefine the literary relationship between “center” and “periphery”. The second, on the other hand, will be to highlight how the critical dialogue that these writers weave with the models of the ex-modernist canon not only corroborates the ascendancy of Imperialism on modernist studies,but can also be seen as a kind of “alternative” Modernism, as a cultural,historical and political, as well as aesthetic, phenomenon (Huyssen 2007;Kalliney 2016).