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Found in translation: women acquiring auctoritas

by InĂªs de Ornellas e Castro

If in a social and political context auctoritas is conceived as the power to intervene and to be listen by the community as an individual with full rights, in the literary community auctoritas is perceived in a different way: to be included or excluded from the canonic production. Although they were generally excluded from full participation in society and restrict to domesticity, some European women created, since the XII century, their literary space embracing non-canonic texts, written in vernacular language (unconstrained by grammar and spoken by the laity) which is to say that they explored the alterity of their natal language and got a space in a national sphere dominated by man. But a minority of women, by their exceptional formation, was able to be a member of a larger community, transcending the idea of nation. By mastering Europe cultural and scientific language, Latin, they could read, translate and produce in the most accepted literary language and became part of the international intelligentsia. It is our main propose to examine the trajectory of some Portuguese women belonging to the aulic space in the XVI and XVII centuries and reflect about the way they chose to do their entry into literary discourse. We would like to show that their prefaces in translations (and works written in Latin but presented as citations and translations) revealed they felt linked to the canonic literature they have studied and that had shaped their formation. As a fact, under translation we can find women revealing their auctoritas inter pares, participating in public debates of their own time without the constraint of losing the feminine qualities society acknowledge them.

AsK, September 2012

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