Padre António Vieira Chair
The Padre António Vieira Chair in Portuguese Studies was created on 7 October 1994, as the result of an agreement signed between the Instituto Camões and PUC-Rio [http://www.letras.puc-rio.br/catedra/]. Since then, the Chair has developed into an interdisciplinary space for the training of teachers and researchers in the social sciences.
I. Literature and Urban Experience – The aim of this project is to study the ways in which the city is represented and the relationships these representations maintain with the wider universe of culture. With this aim in mind, attempts are being made to assemble an interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary bibliography in the field of urban studies, to construct a theoretical framework that makes it possible to read the images and representations of the city in poetic, narrative and reference works from 19th and 20th century Brazilian and Portuguese literature, and, from a comparative standpoint, to interact with texts from other literatures. This research is focused on the question of the legibility of the modern and postmodern city.
Since 1995, the Padre António Vieira Chair in Portuguese Studies has been hosting seminars at PUC-Rio that have sought to discuss themes and questions related to present-day concerns, to promote methodological approach, and to respect the tradition that has been bequeathed to us. The seminars also foster interdisciplinary discussion by bringing together researchers from Brazil and other countries, who represent various teaching and research institutions and disciplinary backgrounds. Seminars undertaken by the Padre António Vieira Chair are listed below:
"Revisiting Luís de Camões: 400 years of the Rhythmas" (1995) – This first seminar organized by the Chair paid homage to Luís de Camões on the four hundredth anniversary of the publication of his lyrical work, the Rhythmas. The seminar addressed the princeps edition of the Rhythmas against the broad panorama of Renaissance culture.
"The 150th anniversary of the birth of Eça de Queirós" (1995) – This seminar commemorated the 150th anniversary of Eça de Queirós’s birth. In addition to honoring Queirós as a great Portuguese novelist, the main feature of this meeting was the exchange of experiences and the debate that took place between teachers who have used Eça’s work as one of the central avenues of their research.
"The various faces of António Vieira" (1995) – The three hundredth anniversary of the death of Padre António Vieira, the patron of the Chair, was commemorated with lectures given by four Brazilian and Portuguese specialists on Vieira.
"Vieira 300 years later" (1996) – Taking advantage of the presence of Professor Margarida Vieira Mendes, a leading specialist on Padre António Vieira, as a visiting professor to the Graduate Program in Letters, this seminar was organized on the subject of Vieira’s work and brought together a new group of specialists.
"Cities in Dialog: literature and urban experience" (1997) – This seminar was planned in close conjunction with the Chair’s research project on “Literature and the Urban Experience”, using texts that deal with the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon as its main axis. It also sought to promote the exchange of experiences between Brazilian and Portuguese researchers on the urban themes in literature and other disciplines.
"Must one be absolutely modern?" (1998) – The main aim of this seminar was to create a forum for debating questions and theories referring to the terms modern, modernism, modernity and postmodernity. In this sense, Rimbaud’s famous and emblematic phrase was taken as the seminar’s theme, though it was presented as a question. Examining the issue from this standpoint, the Chair’s 6th seminar sought to prompt a debate on the theories of modernization and their determinants, particularly with regard to the insertion of cultural products in political, social and cultural fields.
"Culture and Democracy: the 25th anniversary of the April 25th Revolution" (1999) – The linked themes of culture and democracy (as well as their impasses, advances, and retreats), which have been topical in the modern and now postmodern ages, functioned as the lynchpins for this interdisciplinary seminar. The commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Portugal's Revolution of the Carnations, which took place on April 25th, 1974, provided the occasion for a reinterpretation through a comparison with the cultural effects of Brazil’s own return to democracy. The seminar also acknowledged the Portuguese writer José Cardoso Pires, an intellectual who resisted the dictatorship and defended democratic principles throughout his life in order to safeguard culture as a right to be enjoyed by everyone.
"Scenes from Modern Life and the Globalization of Culture: Madrid, Paris, Berlin, St. Petersburg, the World" (2000) – The title of this seminar references Eça de Queirós’s project, "Scenes from Portuguese Life", which was intended to map the society of his time. The title additionally refers to globalization as a force that calls national cultures into question, and contests the heretofore-dominant idea that the nation establishes cultural boundaries. The homage paid to Eça de Queirós, in the year that marked the centenary of his death, was coupled with a tribute to Cesário Verde, a writer considered decisive in the development of “modern” Portuguese poetry. These two Portuguese artists and intellectuals were considered together as a bridge for reflecting on this new fin de siècle period, in which cultural phenomena interact with tradition in new ways.
"Nostalgia for Scheherazade? – The state of the narrative at the beginning of the 21st century" (2001) – This seminar invokes Scheherazade as an archetypal narrator, in whom tradition has placed all the supreme skills of the art of storytelling - prodigious inventiveness, seduction, the ceremony of storytelling, listening, plot and enchantment – in order to investigate the role of the narrative at the beginning of this new century. What can the figure of Scheherazade teach us in these postmodern times? What today can be said to be the most appropriate form of storytelling?
"Theatre and Society: Gil Vicente – 500 years of theatre" (2002) – This seminar maintained a certain openness in its choice of participants from different areas and from various Brazilian and Portuguese universities, although Gil Vicente served as its central figure remembrance, study and discussion. Vicente was selected for his role as the founder of Portuguese theatre and a playwright still considered as Portugal’s greatest, whose 500 years of theatre were commemorated in June 2002. The expansion of the seminar’s theme to encompass the relationship between theatre and society allowed for approaches based on centuries worth of challenging theatrical work and for reflection upon the role of the theatre in Brazil and Portugal.
"The Role of the Intellectual Today" (2003) – The term "intellectual" certainly carries a double meaning, which can be seen in the historical and sometimes oppositional relationship between the formation and composition of the cultured classes and the political efficacy of a culture. The Chair’s eleventh seminar therefore set out to discuss, in general terms, the forms through which intellectuals as a particular category or social class, which is distinguished by its education and competence, acquire more specific connotations that point toward the role of the "socially committed" writer. Moreover, the seminar considered the term intellectual as a designation given to artists, scholars, scientists and, in general, anyone who, through his or her cultural endeavors, has acquired authority and influence in public debates.
"In 10 Years: Literature, Politics, Culture" (2004) – University Professors from Brazil, Portugal and Mozambique met in Auditorium of PUC-Rio’s Rio Data Centre (RDC) to reflect upon events, works, authors and phenomena from literature, politics and culture from the past ten years. In 2004, the Padre António Vieira Chair in Portuguese Studies additionally commemorated its tenth anniversary of continuous activity.
"Species of Spaces" (2005) – Its title taken from the book Espèces d’espaces (1974) by the French writer Georges Perec, this seminar sought to question space, or more specifically the reading of it. Based on this simple and open premise, space was chosen as a privileged category for thinking about the contemporary world. In the discourses of the most varied disciplines, there is a tendency to resort to this category and its correlates, such as place, non-place, in-between place, territory, limit, (de)territorialization, globalization, worldwide and local, center and periphery, nation-state, cosmopolitanism, etc., which have removed the category of time from the center of analysis. It has indeed been said that time, which was given a privileged place in Modernity’s formulations and proposals, is now giving way to space, to which the general context of postmodernity affords a privileged position. It is there that spaces have taken on new dimensions that, with the internationalization of cultures and economies, merit new forms of research. The chair’s 13th Seminar sought to open up debate to include an interdisciplinary perspective, or more radically, a post-disciplinary perspective.
The Chair’s Research Forum
The idea of creating an annual forum arose from the need to grant visibility to graduate students’ academic output. The aim is to broaden the horizons of discussion through exchange with researchers from other disciplines and academic institutions, always with the aim of enriching the work of all those involved.
Publishing has been one of the lynchpins of the Chair’s existence. Since 2004, efforts have been made to diversify our line of publications, resulting in our present number of three annual titles – the Semear and Gândara journals and a book related to the Chair’s international seminars.
To conclude, I should like to mention that the Padre António Vieira Chair’s various activities have as their central aim the granting of a well-deserved, broad visibility to the Chair’s research team in the academic sphere, in the field of cultural production taking place in the city of Rio de Janeiro, and among national and international audiences.
2006, ISSN 1645-6432