- The Anthology in Portugal: A New Approach to the History of Portuguese Literature in the Twentieth Century
Anthologies are often the unsung heroes of college literary survey courses. The anthology chosen for the class often defines the Portuguese literary canon for the (U.S.) graduate student who sees the text selections as their introduction to the history of Portuguese literature. For more advanced scholars, the anthology provides an opportunity to deepen their knowledge or to specialize in a particular theme, genre, time period or author. At the very least, anthologies provide easy and convenient access to a wide variety of texts, many of which may no longer exist outside of national archives. Throughout Patricia Anne Odber de Baubeta's text, the author and reader are constantly engaging with the underlying question: What is the ultimate purpose of the literary anthology? Is it literary historiography, literary criticism, social criticism, simply a compilation of texts linked by time, topic and language—or some mixture thereof? While the text does, at times, come across as a routine listing of anthologies and authors, overall the book remains true to its initial purpose: "to explore anthologies produced in Portugal from a multidisciplinary perspective that draws on literary studies, literary historiography, sociology of reading, gender studies, cultural studies, among others" (28–29).
Baubeta defines the anthology as "a compilation of self-standing poems or short stories, deliberately selected and organised in such a way as to serve the editor's purpose" (34) and specifically focuses on anthologies published in Portugal containing Portuguese literature (although some anthologies also included translations of foreign literature) during the course of the twentieth century. She begins her chronological survey of anthologies based on the year of publication, starting in 1907 and ends with texts published up to 2007. In this way, she is able to show how literary tastes change and evolve—oftentimes influenced by the very anthologies that she analyzes—and how the role of the anthologist goes beyond the mere choosing of texts, at times demonstrating political or socially rebellious leanings. Baubeta also contends that while the content of anthologies may be studied at length, the composition of the anthology itself and the editor's choice of texts are much more infrequently studied. This [End Page 197] she feels needs to be remedied, as "even a preliminary examination of anthologies will contribute significantly to the (re-)construction of Portuguese literary history. As a literary, cultural and commercial phenomenon, they can teach us a great deal. Anthologies demonstrate how literary works are disseminated and consumed, they speak to us about literary fashions, aesthetic values or reader reception and taste" (27). In particular, while maintaining a fairly neutral stance about the subjective quality of twentieth-century Portuguese anthologies, Baubeta focuses on two main themes prevalent in the impetus of the creation of a literary anthology: "the politics of the anthology" (20) or a focus on the editor and their choices, and the use of anthologies as "recovery scholarship" (22) in the (re)formation of a literary canon.
Baubeta begins her analysis with a series of early twentieth-century anthologists, including Carolina Michaëlis de Vasconcelos, Mendes dos Remédios, Fidelino de Sousa Figueiredo among many others. These early anthologies tended to be re-evaluations of traditional texts (in the line of the medieval Cancioneiros) or have more scandalous, fin de siècle themes of stories concerning fallen women and the bohemian lifestyle. Still, Baubeta is entirely correct in her assertion that these anthologists "all shared a sense of mission and believed that they were carrying out a duty, namely to educate society" and that "all had a commitment to disseminating prose and poetry, stimulating people to read" (98). The following generation of anthologists, from the "War Years to the 1950s," tended to be more controversial, as many of them were (or would be) well-known authors: João Gaspar Simões, José Régio, Adolfo Casais Monteiro, Jorge de Sena and José-Augusto França to name a...