Adverse Genres in Fernando Pessoa

ISBN : 9780195391213

K. David Jackson
288 Pages
170 x 246 mm
Pub date
Oct 2010
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This book is an introduction to and interpretation of the world of Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), one of the most fascinating and complex figures in European literary modernism and the avant-garde. Raised in South Africa and writing much of his literary work in English, Pessoa nevertheless almost never left the city of Lisbon after returning in 1905. Pessoa is known for abolishing the authorial self and for dividing his writings among a large number of other personalities - the heteronyms - who wrote through him, each in a completely different style. The theory of 'adverse genres' introduced in this book aids understanding of his paradoxical and contradictory use of genres. Through the invented 'coterie of authors,' Pessoa explored mixed writing by changing the relationship between form and content, authorship and text. Adverse Genres describes how Pessoa selected genres from the European tradition (Ricardo Reis' 'Horatian' odes, Alvaro de Campos' worship of Whitman, Alberto Caeiro's pastoral and metaphysical, Bernardo Soares' philosophical diary), into which he put a different and incongruent content taken from modernist, contemporary themes. By creating anomalies between form and content, or authors and texts, Pessoa gives new life and definition to traditional historical genres for a modernist age. In doing so, he enhances the normal expressive potential of each genre by incorporating uncharacteristic content and questioning authorship. Pessoa uses this procedure in his 1907 short story, 'A Very Original Dinner' in the 'Cancioneiro' or collected poems written under the name Fernando Pessoa; in his love letters to Ophelia Queiros; in his 1922 story 'The Adventure of the Anarchist Banker;' in his collection of quatrains derived from Portuguese popular verse; and, finally, in his problematic non-existence as 'the man who never was,' in Jorge de Sena's expression, who exchanged a normal life for an entirely literary world of the imagination. This book addresses Pessoa's desire to be an entire literature, a new literary history, as it were, full of diverse authors and styles, as if they were characters or roles in a dramatic theater of the self in literary modernism.


1. Cannibal Rituals: Cultural Primitivism in "A Very Original Dinner"
2. Waiting for the Ancient Mariner: A Theater of Immanence
3. Feigning Real Life: Heart and Mind in the Cancioneiro
4. Clearly Non-Campos!: Alvaro de Campos's Song of Non-Self
5. "All Love Letters are Ridiculous:" Fernando's Sentimental Education
6. The Adventure of the Anarchist Banker
7. Alberto Caeiro's Other Version of Pastoral
8. Scientific Neoclassicism in the Odes of Ricardo Reis
9. History as Iconography: Messages from Beyond
10. The Book of Disquietude: The Anti-Artist and the Non-Book
11. The Mirror, the Coat Hanger, and the Pen: Pessoa's Labyrinth
1. "A Very Original Dinner" by Alexander Search
2. Locating the Odes of Ricardo Reis by edition

About the author: 

K. David Jackson is Professor of Portuguese at Yale University. He is the editor of The Oxford Anthology of the Brazilian Short Story.

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