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History of Portuguese Literature Origins of Portuguese Literature The Portuguese Language Oral Literature Fiction Lyricism
Travel Literature Cantigas de amigo Historiography Doctrinal Prose


Doctrinal Prose

Adoração dos Reis Magos (Adoration of the Magi), (1501-1506), retable at Viseu Cathedral, from the Workshop of Vasco Fernandes/Grão Vasco

Mãe e Filha (Mother and Daughter) (1947), by Vespeira [b. 1925]

Literature habitually involves many different forms for the writing of ideas. The prime aim of most of these is not exactly literary, but, either because of their linguistic or textual content or in keeping with each period’s established canons of aesthetic appreciation, they are frequently considered to be relatively close to specifically literary forms.

This condition is inherent in texts of a didactic or documentary nature (including, for example, those that are included under the heading of Travel Literature), but it is particularly evident in the various doctrinal writings that appear to have an entirely fortuitous connection with the literary text. Even essay-writing and criticism frequently tend to be confused with this form of doctrinal prose and help to fill in some of the often important gaps in the systematic organisation of literature.

The series of written texts bequeathed by the prose-writers of the House of Avis, in the fourteenth century, which have been included in the section on The Origins of Portuguese Literature, only find certain similarities in this chapter after the beginning of the baroque period (although the Renaissance classics represent an interesting form of literary production in this area, e.g. Ropica Pnefma, 1532, by João de Barros). The baroque period was in fact very interested in establishing links between religious dictates and their effects on profane life and, generally speaking, on everyday events (Frei Heitor Pinto and Frei Amador Arrais). During the period of the Enlightenment, the ideas deriving from moral and political philosophy similarly inspired D. Luís da Cunha, Alexandre de Gusmão, Cavaleiro de Oliveira and Matias Aires, but it was O Verdadeiro Método de Estudar (The True Method of Study) (1746) by Luís António Verney that was to prove the most important work of overall cultural reflection from the eighteenth century.

This type of writing was to proliferate during the period of Romanticism, not only with Garrett and Herculano, but also with the so-called “1870’s Generation”, which was composed precisely of a group of writers who mostly combined their literary output with writings of a doctrinal nature (Eça de Queirós, Antero de Quental, Teófilo Braga, Ramalho Ortigão and Oliveira Martins). Such writers were in fact characterised by their natural overlapping, developing the poetry of ideas and the thesis novel, whenever they were not engaged in producing noteworthy works in this particular genre of reflection, which nowadays tends to be considered as marginal in relation to the mainstream of literary aesthesis.

Later were to come the groups of “Lusitanian Integralism” (with António Sardinha, and the reviews entitled Alma Portuguesa (The Portuguese Soul) and Nação Portuguesa (The Portuguese Nation), 1913-1938) and Seara Nova (with António Sérgio and Raúl Proença), who produced this type of writing with perhaps less vigour but with regular quality. And closer to the present day, Manuel Antunes, Agostinho da Silva and Eduardo Lourenço are examples of writers who have had a decisive influence on different currents of thought in Portuguese culture.



© Instituto Camões, 2001