American Studies Over_Seas: (Multi)Vocal Exchanges Across the Atlantic

The Interdisciplinary Studies in Diasporas series is part of the Peter Lang Humanities list. Every volume is peer reviewed and meets the highest quality standards for content and production.

American Studies Over_Seas: (Multi)Vocal Exchanges Across the Atlantic

American Studies Over_Seas: (Multi)Vocal Exchanges Across the Atlantic
Vol. 10. (eds) Medeiros, Vale Gato, Avelar, Blayer, Scott, Mcgowan

"This volume helps renovate existing ideas about Transnational American Studies. Deeply invested with the cutting-edge transdisciplinary practices currently employed in the field, it examines American literary history centered on seafaring, combining academic essays, personal accounts of scholarly exchanges, and creative writing pieces by poets and novelists. Foregrounding the Portuguese American experience, it provides a unique multicultural perspective for Americanists and general readers alike."

Takayuki Tatsumi, Keio University

 “Art urges Voyages,” notes Gwendolyn Brooks, offering the perfect epigraph to this ebullient second volume of American Studies Over_Seas: (Multi)Vocal Exchanges Across the Atlantic. Redolent with the salty smell of the sea, these contributions by poets, translators and scholars float trans-oceanic experiences to our welcoming selves. The pieces speak homage to the “two Teresas,” visionary activists of “cultural diplomacy” in Portuguese American Studies. We have short stories, histories, fantasies, poems, essays and various other explorations in language and imagination; we experience breathy adventures of then/there to here/now, the epic past to our individual now. Ancient Greece. The Azores. Newfoundland. Africa. New Bedford. Brooklyn. We are launched on the transition/translation of languages: “You are no longer alone. Tu és sozinho nunca mais.” The collection navigates our intercultural belongings with flair and ease and great delight."

Marilyn S. Zucker, Stony Brook University

by the Editors

In this second volume of American Studies Over_Seas—intended to pay homage to Teresa F. A. Alves and Teresa Cid, two dear Portuguese scholars who have dedicated their academic careers to the transnational and interdisciplinary facets of American Studies—we assemble contributions in different literary genres and styles. They range from testimonials, commentaries to translations, intersections between biography and autofiction, lyrical essays and creative writing, in addition to academic essays, the latter especially devoted to the “Lusodiasporic” presence in the cultural and socioeconomic fabric of the United States of America.1 Though heterogeneous in nature and in subject matter, all the pieces of this volume may be subsumed under the subtitle “Multi(Vocal) Exchanges Across the Atlantic,” giving prominence to the European tesserae that make up the contemporary cultural mosaic of the United States, without neglecting fragments and threads originating in other continents, such as Asia or Africa. On the edge of Europe, our honorees—whose bond of intertwined careers generated abroad the empathetic form of address “the two Teresas”—found a viewpoint from which to extend the fluxes of international American Studies in their own country and abroad.

The first section, titled “Literary Affinities and Transatlantic Cooperation in Academia,” sets out with more personal essays, which give us loving glimpses of these women’s trajectories. The first piece is by senior scholar Maria Helena Paiva Correia, who supervised the doctoral theses of both Teresas, and the second essay by Ana Cristina Alves, the daughter who finds similarities between her mother’s life and that of the heroine created by Amy Tan in her autobiography The Women Warriors. The third and fourth pieces are penned by two of the most prominent Portuguese American writers publishing today, Katherine Vaz and the poet Frank X. Gaspar, both of whom underscore the affective intensity, enthusiasm and buoyancy of their academic ←1 | 2→practice and their interpersonal skills—or, in the words of Teresa F. A. Alves in reference to Frank X. Gaspar: “common experience, cross-textual dialogue, telescopic correspondence, interweaving with the breath of the soul” (Alves 219).

From there, we proceed to Juliet Antunes Sablosky’s informed overview of the importance of “cultural diplomacy” in the circulation of scholarship, and of the standard set by Teresa F. A. Alves and Teresa Cid in that respect, implementing and developing bilateral protocols, as well as promoting and enlarging the scope of international gatherings in the area of American Studies. The essay that follows is a collaborative piece by Georgetown professors from the departments of English, American History and Philosophy, who came regularly to the University of Lisbon to lecture under a memorandum of understanding for research and teaching that the two Teresas succeeded in establishing in the year 1996. Lucy B. Maddox, George O’Brien, Ronald Johnson, and Randy Bass recall their experience in Lisbon, and offer testimony of the seeds of collaboration planted between the two institutions from which it is hoped future joint projects and agreements will still bear fruit. It is only fitting that Laura Pires’s essay on “Friendship Overseas for a Better World” should come next, as this contributor also lectured as an invited professor at Georgetown, and has been fostering for years the continuing collaboration between Portuguese and American Fulbright alumni, a status shared as well by the two Teresas. It is also appropriate that we should now mention a mixed-genre essay by a longtime friend and colleague of our honorees, Heinz Ickstadt, who, upon retirement, has chosen the Brooklyn Bridge as a sort of sounding board for crossings amid different literary influences originating not only in Europe and the United States, but also in other parts of the American continent.

The editors have curated an entire section of formal academic essays, which we have termed “Portuguese American Transits.” According to the Introduction to a previous collection of essays titled Neither Here nor There, Yet Both (2015), which our honorees oversaw, the phrase “Portuguese American” (oftentimes used as a synonym of “Luso American”) can be broadened to an experience that “acknowledges immigration and Portuguese descendancy, but extends to other modes of transnational connectivity, including testimonies of exiles, travelers, and diplomats, as well as literary—or more amply, cultural—translation efforts, back and forth, between Portugal and North America” (Vale de Gato 182). We include here three essays dedicated to the close reading of texts by authors who in one way or another partake of the Lusodiasporic legacy: Almeida and Vale de Gato analyze writings by Elizabeth Bishop, Olga Cabral and Nancy Vieira Couto; Martins expounds ←2 | 3→on the work of Katherine Vaz; and Fazenda Lourenço takes on the poetry of Jorge de Sena, an author conventionally placed in Portuguese literary history, even if the greater part of his career was spent in the United States. Two other essays, by Reinaldo Silva and Edgardo Medeiros da Silva, blend literary and historical critique, offering a socio-cultural analysis of the status of immigrants of Portuguese ancestry as portrayed by Herman Melville. Dulce M. Scott, a sociologist, draws on theories of immigrants’ assimilation and diaspora to situate the cultural allegiances and levels of socioeconomic integration of Portuguese Americans. Finally, Onésimo Teotónio Almeida comments on the prolific career of an academic, poet, translator and dear friend, who sadly passed away while this volume was in the works, George Monteiro. Like our honorees, Monteiro was an American Studies scholar who took an active interest in Portuguese literature and in the Portuguese American experience—though from his own side of the Atlantic, the shores of Rhode Island and Brown University, Providence. It was there that, from the late 1970s, his friendship with Teotónio Almeida grew and built one of the most solid foundations for Portuguese and Brazilian Studies on US academia to this day, most notably graduate and postgraduate programs, a university press, and a literary journal, Gávea-Brown: a Bilingual Journal. Soon, similar efforts sprouted in other Portuguese departments and research centers in universities from coast to coast of the United States and Canada, and our two honorees enthusiastically drew the required synergies to bridge the oceanic gap with continental Portugal. Together, the two Teresas opened up avenues of research and investigation for Portuguese American literature. They promoted the intersection of American Studies with the Lusodiasporic, namely through joint ventures with the editors of the series “Interdisciplinary Studies in Diasporas,” under the auspices of which this volume is brought to light, not to mention the international conferences “Narrating the Portuguese Diaspora,” in Lisbon, in 2008, or “Exploring the Portuguese Diaspora in InterDISCIPLINARY and Comparative Perspectives,” in Indianapolis, in 2013. They, therefore, have consistently contributed to the greater and ever buoyant visibility of Portuguese and other Lusophone descendants in the 21st century, reinforcing, in the words of Teresa Cid, the “conviction that Portuguese American socioeconomic, political, and cultural achievements are actively stepping out of invisibility, gradually building a momentum of affirmation” (Cid 725).

It is thus only right that we should end this volume with “Creative Writing / Textual Diasporas,” giving the floor to the voices of Portuguese American authors, as well as those other writers who have somehow experienced the cultural transits between North America and Portuguese-speaking communities ←3 | 4→around the globe. Among the authors of Portuguese descent, Vieira Couto’s contribution is one of traces, dispersals, and genealogies, intersecting questions of gender, (silenced) female heroism, and hesitant masculinity. With a neocolonial twist, Darrell Kastin’s text addresses the latter concept, while also including a critique of status and class. But perhaps the most poignant attempt at deconstructing gender and ethnic bias is that which we can find in the late Julian Silva’s short story, “My Father the Truck Driver,” which we are pleased to include herein due to the felicity that one of our editors is Silva’s literary trustee. Richard Simas, on the other hand, goes further back in time, turning history on its head and weaving together the evidence and rumors of the Portuguese as explorers who set foot (and drew markings on rocks) on North-American shores early on. Scott Edward Anderson also delves into the mythical aura of the Portuguese as sea voyagers, turning to language as archaeology, ramification, and wave-length continuity, so as to convey the anxiety of modern day travelers caught in the “stormy seas” of the pandemic. Finally, Dean Ellis and Stuart Blazer, two often-time travelers to Portugal (and Brazil, in Dean’s case) draw on Portuguese traditions, literary culture and music to piece together poetically alternative voices.

These creative writing contributions, therefore, dramatize issues of ethnicity, identity and interculturality, enriching the metaphor of the Atlantic Ocean as a space of dialogue rather than struggle, in a world currently more prone to separation and division. The possible “bridging” signified by the ocean is also the theme of the opening contribution by the Portuguese multi-award-winning author Ana Luísa Amaral, who in her poem “Ode to my Hand: Navigations,” poignantly renews a parallel connotation, that of bodies united through a sea of words and texts. We are thus pleased to foreground this volume’s unique feature of including in it texts that are not exclusively academic, and which provide an imaginative backdrop to the scholarly debate on transnational American Studies…

The Editors
Edgardo Medeiros da Silva, PhD
Margarida Vale de Gato, PhD
Mário Avelar, PhD
Irene Maria F. Blayer, PhD
Dulce Maria Scott, PhD
Tony McGowan, PhD