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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



Areas of Interest:

National Identity
19th Century Literature and Culture
Portuguese Literature and Culture

Current Research:

In my PhD thesis I am investigating the allegorical use of figures of powerful British women in 19th-century Portuguese narrative fiction. I will look at how these female representations of otherness are used to present and question Portuguese national identity, and how the use of allegory enables, disables and changes authors’ critiques of Portugal’s subalternity within Europe. As an integral part of my project, I shall also question how degrees of canonicity, esotericism and popular appeal affect the the production, content and reception of presentations of Anglo-Portuguese relations. 

An important aspect of this will be these texts’ visual presentation, be it in the context of the journals and newspapers in which they were originally published, or in the many printed editions and adaptations to which their canonical status has led. This facet of my research will also involve exploring ideas of seriality, as what we now know as novels originally appeared in serialised forms in newspapers and journals.

Through these studies, I intend to contribute to answering the question posed by Boaventura de Sousa Santos: whether Portugal’s ‘nation-ness’ was, and is, more affected by its experience as coloniser, or as ‘semi-colonised’ by the British. I intend moreover to examine Sousa Santos’ theory that Portugal’s nineteenth-century liminal identity questioned and undermined the supposed binaries through which the world was commonly viewed in the West. I shall look at presentations of Portugal’s marginality during its difficult passage through the long nineteenth century, and try to determine how such historical liminality may have been used to present the country to advantage, both at the time and in modern uses and adaptations of the texts: avoiding colonial guilt by emphasising Portugal’s subalternity for example, or narrating Portugal as proto-postmodern, leading Europe in its questioning of identity categories, just as it did in its exploration of the globe.

Research Ambition:

In the future I plan to use my in depth knowledge of 19th-century Portuguese history culture to turn to presentations of this era made in the present day, be it in adaptations of canonical fiction, or in original historical fiction. I hope moreover to use my studies of the visual presentation and seriality of 19th-century novels in their original serialised form as a springboard to turn to visual studies, particularly Heritage Cinema. I want to look how the supposed fantasy of simple 19th-century binaries, discussed in much of the writing on British Heritage Cinema, bears out in Portuguese Heritage Cinema, so far hardly examined. 

Department: Spanish and Portuguese
Supervisor: Prof. Maria Manuel Lisboa and Prof. Brad Epps
College: Queens' College
AHRC Subject Area: Portuguese Literature
Title of Thesis: Problematics and potential in using allegory to critique Anglo-Portuguese relations in the nineteenth century
 Hazel  Robins