Melancholy, Love and Letters

International Congress on Soror Mariana Alcoforado (1640-1723)

Beja, Portugal - 15-17 November 2019


The obscure letters a nun from Beja, Portugal, wrote to her fugitive lover build a crescendo of longing, affliction and abandonment, refashioning the pristine motives of medieval Galician-Portuguese «songs of a friend» with a new baroque hypersensitivity. They have attained, since their unauthorized publication in 1669, 350 years ago, an improbable success throughout Europe and the world, sparking fashions, instigating literary and scholarly battles, and inspiring countless imitations and tributes.

About these poignant documents of hopelessness, everything has been questioned: the letters’ authorship and original language; their author’s sex and nation; the authenticity or artifice of the emotions they project; the veracity or fictionality of the biographical and topographic contexts they evoke. Scholars, polemists, literary critics and Mariana's devotees have put forward strong arguments in favor of various hypotheses concerning the text’s authorship, which have been raised, denied, reformulated, resumed, recombined, and joined also by a growing corpus of recreations that threaten to relegate the text itself to a faded background. Despite this fertile reception, or by virtue of it, Mariana's passion remains at the center of the gallery of Portuguese love myths, parallel to the tragedy of Pedro and Inês.

Three and a half centuries later, the time has come to rescue the text, reevaluate its authorship, and celebrate the inexhaustible fascination of its themes: volition and desire, expressed through the ancient practice of prayer; the penitent self-examination, trained in the rigorous discipline of confession; and the «contemptus mundi», root and pillar of the cloistered condition. Mariana's tribulations thus attain the full potential of the four canonical readings: the historical (the unhappy convent romance in Beja), the allegorical (the existential solitude of any individual), the moral (the desperation of lovers facing the impossibility of total union), and the anagogical (the lament of the soul, while abandoned in its earthly exile, yearning for its return to the Creator).

The Nova University of Lisbon, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and with the generous support of Beja Town Council, will hold an International Congress on Soror Mariana Alcoforado in Beja, on 15-17 November 2019, to mark the 350 years of the princeps edition of 'Lettres portugaises traduites en françois' (Paris: chez Claude Barbin, 1669). The Portuguese National Library will showcase a related bibliographical exhibition, among other celebrations in Beja, Lisbon and worldwide.

Keynote Speakers (plenarists): Anna M. Kłobucka, Manuela Parreira da Silva, Filipe Delfim Santos; Theatrical performance by Myriam Cyr and Lisa Forrell


1st Day (15th November), morning

Conference opening: visit to the bibliographic exhibition on Mariana in the Portuguese National Library. Departure to Beja: accommodation and lunch.

1st Day (15th November), afternoon

Tour of the Convent of Our Lady of Conception, where Mariana Alcoforado (signing Maria Anna Alcoforada) lived and died, and of the exhibition on 'Mariana's Life and Letters' in the Regional Museum of Beja.

2nd Day (16th November)

Letters of unhappy love - Mariana Alcoforado (1640-1723), celebrating the 350 years of her Portuguese Letters (Paris, 1669); updates on the authorship controversy.

Love letters that last beyond love: other correspondences of grands amoureux and grandes amoureuses: from Abelardo and Heloisa to the present.

See 'other topics' below.

Celebratory banquet.

3rd Day (17th November)

Special Sections

Hommage to Leonel Borrela (1955-2017).

Florbela Espanca (1894-1930) - the 125th anniversary of 'Soror Saudade', the second Mariana. Mariana and Florbela, the blue voices from Alentejo.

Return to Lisbon in the afternoon

Other topics suggested (but not limited to):

Mariana: the nun and the Lettres, longing, treason, resentment and sublimation; eminent Marianists: Luciano Cordeiro, Luís Cardim, Manuel Ribeiro, Belard da Fonseca, Leonel Borrela; Literature: epistolography, love letters, feminine voices vs. female authorship; the Baroque sorores - Santa Teresa de Ávila (1515-1582), Soror Violante do Céu (1601-1693), Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (México, 1651-1695), Madre Maria do Céu (1658-1723), Madre Maria Perpétua da Luz (Beja, 1684-Beja, 1736); the French Grand Siècle: the Versailles court, the Parisian salons, the nouvelles galantes; Beja writers: Muhammad ibn 'Abbad al-Mu'tamid (1040-1095), Diogo de Gouveia (1471-1557), André de Gouveia (1497-1548), Frei Amador Arrais (1530-1600), Frei António das Chagas (Vidigueira 1631-1682), José Agostinho de Macedo (1761-1831), Francisco Alexandre Lobo (1763-1844), Fialho d'Almeida (Vila de Frades 1857-1911), Mário Beirão (1890-1965); Art: Baroque iconography, architecture, azulejaria (tile art), sculpture, painting, performing arts, ephemeral arts: culinary and pastry; Baroque Portuguese Music: Frei Manuel Cardoso (1566-1650), born in Fronteira do Alentejo; Francisco António de Almeida (c.1702-1755), Carlos Seixas (1704-1742), António Pereira da Costa (1712-1755); Spirituality: Poor Clare nuns in Portugal and the Franciscan friars, prayer, confession, penance; life within the cloister: libraries and estates; History and politics: the Portuguese Restoration Wars, The Victorious King Afonso VI and the government of Conde de Castelo Melhor; high treason and the King's trial; Charles II of Spain, the Bewitched; France under the Roi-Soleil and French politics in Portugal; Philosophy: hope and salvation, nostalgia and Saudade; Psychology: melancholy and the creative mind, subclinical and clinical depression, Masochism and Leidensgeschichten (narratives of suffering).

Honorary committee

  • PAULO JORGE ARSÉNIO, Mayor of Beja, hosting
  • with the commendation of His Eminence the Bishop of Beja, Dom JOSÉ JOÃO DOS SANTOS MARCOS

Scientific committee

Participants (40)

From Beja (4)

  • Canon ANTÓNIO MENDES APARÍCIO, Cathedral Chapter of Beja and Priest of Selmes, Vidigueira
  • JOÃO FILIPE DIAS MEDEIRA RODRIGUES, Instituto Politécnico de Beja
  • MARIA JOÃO RAMOS, Instituto Politécnico de Beja

From other Portuguese cities (21):

  • ANA MARIA SEIÇA PAIVA DE CARVALHO, Universidade de Coimbra
  • ANABELA GALHARDO COUTO, Universidade Europeia, Lisboa
  • AUDREY CASTAÑÓN DE MATTOS, Universidade de Coimbra
  • EDMUNDO BALSEMÃO PIRES, Universidade de Coimbra
  • FRANCISCA BICHO, Associação Cultural Fialho de Almeida, Cuba
  • ISA MARGARIDA VITÓRIA SEVERINO, Instituto Politécnico da Guarda
  • JOANA FAUSTINO CANDEIAS, Psicóloga clínica, Lisboa
  • JOAQUIM ANTÓNIO DE JESUS PALMA PINTO, Universidade Católica, Lisboa
  • JOSÉ CARLOS SANTOS, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
  • JOSÉ MIGUEL RITA BORRELA, son of prominent Marianist Leonel Borrela, Porto
  • LARA CRISTINA VITÓRIA SEVERINO, Hospital de Santa Maria, Lisboa
  • LUÍSA BORGES, Universidade Católica, Lisboa
  • LUIZ HUMBERTO JARDIM MARCOS, Director of the Portuguese National Museum of Printing, Porto
  • MANUELA SOFIA DA CONCEIÇÃO SILVA, Instituto Politécnico de Tomar
  • MARIA ODETE SEQUEIRA MARTINS, Academia Portuguesa de História, Lisboa
  • MARIA OTÍLIA PEREIRA LAGE, Universidade do Porto
  • MARINA SILVA MOTA, Universidade do Porto
  • MARTA PÁSCOA DE PIMENTEL TEIXEIRA, Museu-Biblioteca da Fundação da Casa de Bragança, Vila Viçosa
  • RHIAN ATKIN, Universidade de Lisboa
  • ROSA MARIA SÁNCHEZ SÁNCHEZ, Universidade do Porto

From Abroad (15) - 4 Nations

  • ANA MARGARIDA DIAS MARTINS, University of Exeter, UK
  • CLÁUDIA PAZOS-ALONSO, University of Oxford, UK
  • DANIEL REIZINGER BONOMO, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil
  • DAVID GIBSON FRIER, University of Leeds, UK
  • EVELYN BLAUT FERNANDES, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • HILARY OWEN, University of Manchester, UK
  • IOLANDA RODRIGUES ALDREI, Instituto António Fraguas de Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  • PAOLA POMA, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
  • PATRICIA TAVARES DE AZEVEDO, Faculdades Integradas Campo-Grandenses, Brazil
  • PEDRO EMILIANO CASTELEIRO LÓPEZ, poet and essayist, A Corunha, Spain
  • PRISCILA FINGER DO PRADO, Universidade Estadual do Centro-Oeste, Brazil
  • REGINA LÚCIA GONÇALVES PEREIRA SILVESTRINI, Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Brazil
  • ROGÉRIA ALVES FREIRE, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
  • VÉRONIQUE LE DÜ DA SILVA-SEMIK, Universidade Federal da Paraíba, Brazil

Advisory committee (50)

Beja (11):

  • ANITA GORETI ESTÊVÃO TINOCO, Head of Arquivo Distrital de Beja
  • ARLINDO JOSÉ CLEMENTE MORAIS, City ​​Councilor for Education, Sports and Youth
  • JOÃO PAULO DE ALMEIDA LANÇA TRINDADE, Dean of Instituto Politécnico de Beja
  • JORGE PAULO COLAÇO ROSA, Comunidade Intermunicipal do Baixo Alentejo
  • JOSÉ MIGUEL MARTINS, Beja City Council
  • LUCÍLIA LOURENÇO, Teacher, Dom Manuel 1 High School
  • MARIA DE FÁTIMA SOUSA, Teacher, Diogo de Gouveia High School
  • MARIA JOÃO MACEDO, Beja City Council
  • Father RUI MANUEL MENDES CARRIÇO, Vicar General of the Diocese of Beja

Other Portuguese cities (17):

  • ANA ALEXANDRA SEABRA DE CARVALHO, Universidade do Algarve
  • ANA LUÍSA VILELA, Universidade de Évora
  • ANA PAULA BANZA, Universidade de Évora
  • ANA TERESA PEIXINHO, Universidade de Coimbra
  • BETINA RUIZ, Escola Superior Artística de Guimarães
  • CÉSAR AUGUSTO MARTINS MIRANDA DE FREITAS, Instituto de Estudos Superiores de Fafe
  • CRISTINA MARTÍNEZ TEJERO, Universidade de Lisboa
  • DIANA RAFAELA PEREIRA, Universidade do Porto
  • EUGÉNIA ABRANTES MAGALHÃES, Instituto de Estudos Avançados em Catolicismo e Globalização, Lisboa
  • ISIDRO PEREIRA LAMELAS, Universidade Católica, Lisboa
  • LUZIA AURORA ROCHA, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
  • MARIA LUÍSA JACQUINET, Universidade de Coimbra
  • PAULA ALMEIDA MENDES, Universidade do Porto
  • PAULO SILVA PEREIRA, Universidade de Coimbra
  • ROSA MARIA FINA, Universidade de Lisboa

Brazil (7):

  • ADÍNIA SANTANA FERREIRA, Universidade de Brasília
  • FABIO MARIO DA SILVA, Universidade Federal do Sul e Sudeste do Pará
  • LEONARDO COUTINHO DE CARVALHO RANGEL, Universidade Federal da Bahia
  • MARIA LÚCIA DAL FARRA, Universidade Federal de Sergipe
  • MARIA LÚCIA OUTEIRO FERNANDES, Universidade Estadual Paulista, Brazil
  • RICARDO LUIZ SILVEIRA DA COSTA, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo
  • RICARDO VÉLEZ RODRÍGUEZ, Universidade Positivo de Londrina

USA (5):

  • ANA PAULA FERREIRA, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
  • INÊS MOREIRA LIMA, California State University, Fresno, CA
  • KIMBERLY DACOSTA HOLTON, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ
  • RICARDO VASCONCELOS, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
  • VERÓNICA GROSSI, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC

Spain (3):

  • ANTIA CORTIÇAS LEIRA, Consellaría de Educación da Xunta da Galiza
  • ELENA LOSADA SOLER, Universitat de Barcelona
  • MARÍA ISABEL TORO PASCUA, Universidad de Salamanca

UK (3):

  • ANA BELA ALMEIDA, University of Liverpool
  • CARMEN RAMOS VILLAR, University of Sheffield
  • FERNANDO BELEZA, Newcastle University

France (2):

  • MARIA HELENA CUNHA DE FREITAS QUEIRÓS, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3
  • MARIA INÊS AFONSO LOPES, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

Poland (1):

  • WOJCIECH OWCZARSKI, Uniwersytet Gdański

Sweden (1):

  • CHATARINA EDFELDT, Dalarna University

for all queries: congresso@ sorormariana.pt

Congress Program: http://www.marianaalcoforado.pt

Follow us on Twitter: @sorormariana1
Thank you for your support to the Mariana Congress.
Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade Nova de Lisboa
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Câmara Municipal de Beja
National Library of Portugal
Museu Regional de Beja

Links to this page: https://sorormariana.pt and https://blogue.missiva.pt/2019/03/melancholy-love-and-letters.html