Congresso Internacional SOROR MariaNA AlcoforadO

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: Anna M. Klobucka, Manuela Parreira da Silva, Filipe Delfim Santos.


1st Day (15th November), morning

Conference opening in Lisbon, FCSH-UNL. Visit to the bibliographic exhibition on Mariana in the Portuguese National Library and 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. Celebratory banquet. Readings of the Letters.

2nd Day (16th November)

Keynote address: Letters of unhappy love - celebrating the 350 years of Mariana Alcoforado (1640-1723) and the '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.

3rd Day (17th November)

Special Sections:

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

Tribute to Luís Amaro (1923-2018), born in Aljustrel (Beja district), a poet, memoirist and tireless publisher of letters.

Return to Lisbon in the afternoon

Other topics suggested (but not limited to):

Mariana: the nun and the Lettres, longing, treason, resentment and sublimation; Literature: epistolography, love letters, feminine voices vs. female authorship; the Baroque sorores - Santa Teresa de Ávila (1515-1582), Soror Violante do Céu (1601-1693), Soror 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; the posterity of the nun: Júlio Dantas' Sóror Mariana Alcoforado and the Modernist quarrel over the play; 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), José Agostinho de Macedo (1761-1831), Francisco Alexandre Lobo (1763-1844), Mário Beirão (1890-1965); Art: Baroque iconography, architecture, azulejaria (tile art), sculpture, painting, performing arts, ephemeral arts: culinary and pastry; 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; with guest MARIA DO CÉU QUINTAS, Mayor of Freixo de Espada à Cinta, and mayors of Alentejo towns.

Scientific committee

MANUELA PARREIRA DA SILVA, ANNA M. KLOBUCKA (author of Mariana Alcoforado, Formação de um Mito Cultural), and FILIPE DELFIM SANTOS (www.missiva.pt).

Advisory committee

  • ANA ALEXANDRA SEABRA DE CARVALHO, Universidade do Algarve, Portugal
  • ANA BELA ALMEIDA, University of Liverpool, UK
  • ANA LUÍSA VILELA, Universidade de Évora, Portugal
  • ANA MARGARIDA DIAS MARTINS, University of Exeter, UK
  • ANA MARIA SEIÇA PAIVA DE CARVALHO, Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal
  • ANA PAULA BANZA, Universidade de Évora, Portugal
  • ANA PAULA FERREIRA, University of Minnesota, USA
  • ANA TERESA PEIXINHO, Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal
  • ANDRÉ OSÓRIO, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal
  • ANTIA CORTIÇAS LEIRA, Consellaría de Educación da Xunta da Galiza, Spain
  • BETINA RUIZ, Escola Superior Artística de Guimarães, Portugal
  • BRUNO LINO VASSALO, Cineasta, Fronteira, Portugal
  • CARMEN RAMOS VILLAR, University of Sheffield, UK
  • CÉSAR AUGUSTO MARTINS MIRANDA DE FREITAS, Instituto de Estudos Superiores de Fafe, Portugal
  • CHATARINA EDFELDT, Dalarna University, Sweden
  • CLÁUDIA PAZOS ALONSO, University of Oxford, UK
  • CLÁUDIO ALEXANDRE DOS SANTOS CARVALHO, Universidade do Porto, Portugal
  • DIANA RAFAELA PEREIRA, Universidade do Porto, Portugal
  • ELENA LOSADA SOLER, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain
  • FABIO MARIO DA SILVA, Universidade Federal do Sul e Sudeste do Pará, Brazil
  • FERNANDO BELEZA, Newcastle University, UK
  • INÊS MOREIRA LIMA, California State University, Fresno, USA
  • ISA MARGARIDA VITÓRIA SEVERINO, Instituto Politécnico da Guarda, Portugal
  • JOAQUIM ANTÓNIO DE JESUS PALMA PINTO, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Portugal
  • JORGE BARNABÉ, Festival B, Beja, Portugal
  • KIMBERLY DACOSTA HOLTON, Rutgers University, Newark, USA
  • LEONARDO COUTINHO DE CARVALHO RANGEL, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil
  • LUÍS GODINHO, Diretor do Diário do Alentejo, Beja, Portugal
  • MANUELA SOFIA DA CONCEIÇÃO SILVA, Instituto Politécnico de Tomar, Portugal
  • MARGARIDA ALMEIDA BASTOS, Museu de Lisboa, Portugal
  • MARIA HELENA CUNHA DE FREITAS QUEIRÓS, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3, France
  • MARIA INÊS AFONSO LOPES, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, France
  • MARÍA ISABEL TORO PASCUA, Universidad de Salamanca, Spain
  • MARIA JOÃO MACEDO, Câmara Municipal de Beja, Portugal
  • MARIA LÚCIA OUTEIRO FERNANDES, Universidade Estadual Paulista, Brazil
  • MARIA LUÍSA JACQUINET, Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal
  • MARIA MICAELA DIAS PEREIRA RAMON MOREIRA, Universidade do Minho, Portugal
  • MARIA OTÍLIA PEREIRA LAGE, Universidade do Porto, Portugal
  • PAULA ALMEIDA MENDES, Universidade do Porto, Portugal
  • PAULO SILVA PEREIRA, Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal
  • PRISCILA FINGER DO PRADO, Universidade Estadual do Centro-Oeste, Paraná, Brazil
  • REGINA LÚCIA GONÇALVES PEREIRA SILVESTRINI, Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Brazil
  • RICARDO VASCONCELOS, San Diego State University, USA
  • ROSA MARIA SÁNCHEZ, Universidade do Porto, Portugal
  • SARA MARINA BARBOSA, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
  • VÉRONIQUE SEMIK, Universidade Estadual da Paraíba, Brazil
  • WOJCIECH OWCZARSKI, Uniwersytet Gdański, Poland
Call for papers

Please send paper proposals to mariana @ missiva.pt by June 30. Include title, 300-word abstract, and a brief bio note. Presentations in Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish will be accepted.

Submitted proposals will be reviewed by July 15 and acceptance decisions will be communicated by e-mail by July 20.

Conference fees: participants, including round trip Lisbon/Beja/Lisbon, 2 nights accommodation, Gala Dinner, and Congress Certificate - 25€; attendees - free (may join the travel, pending availability of places).


Thank you for your interest in our Congress

All correspondence should be addressed to: mariana @ missiva.pt.

Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade Nova de Lisboa
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
With the generous support of Câmara Municipal de Beja
National Library of Portugal
In collaboration with the Museu Regional de Beja
Celebrating 3,5 centuries of love and passion
missiva.pt, the reference website on Luso-Brazilian epistolography

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