Gostaria hoje de registar neste blogue o texto que podem ver e ouvir no vídeo deste post, a 19 de Março de 2009, no Black Box do Devine Theatre da Universidade de Georgetown, em que apresento o evento organizado pelo Leitorado do Instituto Camões e Departamento de Espanhol e Português, em colaboração com o Programa de Estudos Teatrais e Performativos e o Departamento de Inglês, "Visions / Versions of Emily - Dramatic Readings from contemporary novels by Judith Farr, I Never Came to You in White (1996) e Ana Nobre de Gusmão, The Prisoner of Emily Dickinson (2008), followed by a discussion with the authors".
We meet here today under the sign of interdisciplinarity, and of the good collaboration between Departments and Programs of Georgetown University. Under the sign too of my assignment as "leitora" of Instituto Camões and Visiting Professor at Georgetown, contextualizing Portuguese Literature abroad and presenting it in its relation with contemporary American Literature and with American tradition. We meet here today ultimately under the sign of a philosophy of the encounter itself, as expressed by Martin Buber, "All actual life is encounter." In a world more and more dominated by technology, I believe it is crucial to remember that the experience You-It, useful as it may be, can never replace the relation I-Thou, the world of reciprocity, the way we relate to the other as a person and exchange experiences.
Emily Dickinson would certainly approve, since we are saying that her verse is alive and well. She would probably be astonished that her poetry reached out to a distant, for Americans somehow romantic and exotic land like Portugal. Yet, Anglo-American culture is very much a part of Portuguese everyday life, chiefly through pop music and film. As a young student at the University of Coimbra, studying American culture and literature, I became acquainted with the poetry of Emily Dickinson.
Let me briefly refer to you three milestones of the Portuguese reception of Emily Dickinson. The poet, novelist and essayist Jorge de Sena, who taught at the universities of Wisconsin/Madison and St. Barbara/California, translated and published a selection of her poems, with a remarkable preface. The poet Ana Luisa Amaral, professor at the University of Oporto, wrote her PhD dissertation on Emily Dickinson - A Poetry of Excess. Finally, there is another selection and translation of her poems and some letters by another Portuguese poet, Nuno Júdice, professor at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, following a performance in Lisbon with the pianist Nuno Vieira de Almeida, which I had the luck to attend.
The story of this event is a story of books and readers - it started last Summer when I found Ana's book in a bookstore in Cascais. Going through the list of the readings at the end of her book, I discovered Judith Farr, first as an eminent Emily Dickinson's scholar, then as the author of an Emily-novel too, and, preparing this event, as a friend. Ana and I met during Xmas time in Portugal and soon discovered a common cousin.
Judith Farr has written, taught, and lectured about Emily Dickinson for more than 40 years. Among her many publications about Dickinson are a biography - The Passion of Emily Dickinson - published by Harvard University Press in 1992. It was declared "a notable book of the year" by The New York Times and won the Alpha Sigma Nu Prize for Best Book written in a Jesuit University. Professor Farr also wrote a critical study, The Gardens of Emily Dickinson - The British Academy of Arts & Letters gave that study its Crawshay Prize for "Best Book on a Literary Topic Written in English by a Woman in 2005". Judith Farr's novel I Never came to You in White was runner-up for the Pen Hemingway Award. It has been called "a feast for the imagination" by the New Yorker and was finalist for the Los Angeles Best Novel of the Year contest. She has a Ph.D. from Yale University and is Professor Emerita at Georgetown.
Judith Farr recreates Emily's life in this epistolary novel of 66 imagined letters since her days at St. Mary's seminary, when she was seventeen, until her death at age 55 in Amherst. We as readers can watch through these letters, based on characters who really existed, the process of young Emily becoming a poet, in spite of all the misunderstandings and prejudices of the people around her. All this fiction is based upon actual events, as Judith Farr explains in the "Author's Foreword": "I have tried to 'Tell the Truth' about her inner life, especially during her formative years at school; (...) but in the 'slant', fictional way that she herself preferred." Judith Farr's at the same time intense and precise text is written respecting the languageof Emily Dickinson's contemporaries. This poignant novel vividly puts before our eyes the circumstances under which such a unique poet must have suffered for being ahead of her time, a modern poet in Victorian New England.
Ana Nobre de Gusmão was born in Lisbon/Portugal in 1952. She studied in Ar.Co Design School, Lisbon, and Philosophy at Lisbon University. She has published seven novels and a collection of short stories. She has published seven novels and a collection of short stories . Her first book, Delito sem Corpo (Crime Without a Corpse), published in 1996, was awarded the Máxima Literary Prize. She regularly publishes in Magazine Artes, Storm-magazine and Elle, and short fiction in several publications. Her work has also been published in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and Italy. Married to the Swiss/American painter Michael Biberstein, Ana has travelled the world, has lived in the EUA, New Canaan Ct and NY, and now lives between the Alentejo in Portugal and Switzerland.
The Prisoner of Emily Dickinson is the story of a young Portuguese journalist, Emília, who since beginning her English lessons with her American tutor Miss Donna has become obsessed with the poetry and personality of Emily Dickinson. Through fragments of her poetry, biography and letters, Emily's life and age is situated, thanks to Ana Nobre de Gusmão's art as a novelist, within contemporary Portuguese stories of "enclosure", one of Ana's constant themes. There has been a strong tradition of tales of "imprisonment"and "confinement" in Portugal, particularly concerning women and literature written by women, that goes from the well known Letters of Sister Mariana Alcoforado, written in the 17th century, to the New Portuguese Letters, written by the 3 Marias in the last years of the dictatorship (1972). In this context, it is stimulating and refreshing to read a contemporary text by a woman author where the notions of "enclosure" are dis-located, re-invented and re-equated in the portrait of Emília, who aspires to become a poet but does not possess the necessary talent oder genius, and who is the object of an obsession with the poetry and the character of Emily Dickinson. Transforming the concept of "enclosure" in a positive sense, Ana is able, at the same time, to give us a different perspective of Emily Dickinson herself - not a strange, different, isolated "myth of Amherst" any longer, but closer to us through her contemporary ironical "double", Emília, her family, friends, and social context.
Universidade de Georgetown, 19 de Março de 2009