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The Insurgent Poetics of Luiz Gama

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Stanford Humanities Center
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Isabela Fraga, Lecturer of Iberian and Latin American Cultures and Mellon Fellow at Stanford Humanities Center, Stanford University, will be presenting on “The Insurgent Poetics of Luiz Gama”. Best known for his work as a lawyer and essayist, Afro-Brazilian abolitionist Luiz Gonzaga Pinto da Gama (1830-1882) also penned a substantial corpus of lyric poetry, in which he engaged with canonical European authors and with early modern traditions. In this presentation, Isabela will focus on Gama’s paratextual relationship with Portuguese poet Luís de Camões (c. 1524-1580), particularly Camões’s poem “Endechas a Bárbora escrava” (ca. 1595, also known as “Aquela cativa” or as “Stanzas to the Slave Bárbara” in English). Born out of the early stages of the Iberian colonial project, “Aquela cativa” is an ode to an enslaved woman of color who “captivates” the male poetic voice, thus inverting the master-slave relationship. Three centuries later and on the other side of the Atlantic, Luiz Gama would appropriate and re-signify Camões’s poem in seemingly sentimental verses that propose a scorching critique of slavery at a moment when the institution was being increasingly disputed in Brazil. In so doing, Gama advanced what Isabela calls an insurgent poetics that can only be read in dialogue with his broader political, abolitionist project.