Literatura de Cordel:
Symposium: September 26-27, 2011
Continuity and Change in Brazilian Popular Literature
September 20, 2011
Participant Biographies and Abstracts
Music Division, Library of Congress
Larry Appelbaum is a Senior Music Reference Librarian and jazz specialist in the Music Division at the Library of Congress. As a former supervisor of the Library's Magnetic Recording Laboratory, he transferred, edited and mastered many classical, jazz and folk recordings for commercial release. As a critic, he is a contributor to Jazz: The First Century (William Morrow, 2000), The Encyclopedia of Radio (Museum of Broadcast Communications 2003), and Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology (2010). He writes regularly for JazzTimes and other magazines and websites around the world, curates a jazz film series, and is a long time radio host on WPFW-FM in Washington, D.C.
R. Andrew Chesnut
Virginia Commonwealth University
God, Goals, and Guns: Pentecostalism, Soccer, and Violence as Brazilian Vox Populi
Abstract: There are several other institutions, organizations, and practices, in addition to literatura de cordel, that give voice to the Brazilian popular classes. Among three of the most important on a national scale are Pentecostalism, soccer, and violence. Over the past half-century Pentecostalism has mushroomed in Brazil, particularly among the urban popular classes. A type of secular religion, soccer has provided an important avenue for advancement for many poor men of color, especially African-Brazilians. And violence, particularly in the form of organized crime in the cities, is an expression of the marginalization of significant sectors of the urban population.
Biography: R. Andrew Chesnut is Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is currently serving as the coordinator of the Latin American Studies Association's program on religion and conducting research on miracle-working saints of the Americas and Europe. A leading specialist in Brazilian and Latin American religion, he is the author of Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint (Oxford University Press, December 2011), Competitive Spirits: Latin America's New Religious Economy (Oxford University Press, 2003), and of Born Again in Brazil: The Pentecostal Boom and the Pathogens of Poverty (Rutgers University Press, 1997).
Arizona State University
A Debt to Pay: A Portrait of Twentieth-Century Brazil in Cordel
Abstract: Informed by forty years of studying and writing about literatura de cordel, Curran outlines ten important aspects of life in Brazil in the twentieth century as seen in cordel. Cordel encompasses religion, national religious figures, morality, traditional heroes of the "romance," the migration of people and poets from the Northeast to the South, the oral poetic duel, national politics, international events, and society's problems at the end of the twentieth century. It also recalls the life and death of national heroes and speculates about what may come in the hereafter. Due to its vast universe, Curran calls it "a folk-popular epic of Brazil."
Biography: Mark Curran is Professor Emeritus at the School of International Letters and Cultures, Arizona State University. He taught Spanish and Portuguese language and culture at Arizona State from 1968 to 2002. Curran earned a PhD in Spanish and Latin American Studies with a minor in Luso-Brazilian Studies at Saint Louis University in 1968. He has traveled, studied or taught in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and Spain, but his area of research was Brazilian language, literature, and folk and popular culture. He specialized in literatura de cordel and its relation to erudite literature and history. He has published many research articles and nine books on cordel in Brazil, Spain and the U.S. His books include Retrato do Brasil em Cordel (Portrait of Brazil in the Cordel, in Portuguese, 2011), Brazil's Folk – Popular Poetry (in English and Portuguese, 2010), and História do Brasil em Cordel (History of Brazil in the Cordel, in Portuguese, 1998) and the seminal A Literatura de Cordel, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (in Portuguese, 1973). Since retirement Curran has dedicated time to performance of classic guitar and singing cowboy, classic country, and 1960s folk music in Durango, Colorado, and to trout fishing and hiking for wildflowers in Colorado. More information may be found on Mark Curran's website on cordel.
Back to Top
Maria Carmen Gambliel
Folk and Traditional Arts Program
of the Idaho Commission on the Arts
The Imagery of Brazilian Cordel
Abstract: This presentation focuses on the development of the images illustrating the covers of folhetos de cordel, and on the artists who create them. As a form of visual narrative, these images connect cordel poetry to people and places in northeast Brazil. The presentation also looks into the development of larger format woodcuts widely known as gravures de cordel – cordel prints. Both covers of folhetos and cordel prints have become national and international icons of northeastern Brazilian expressive culture.
Biography: Maria Carmen Gambliel was born and raised in Brazil. In 1979, she received a BFA from the Fundação Escola Guignard in Belo Horizonte, MG, where she later taught Printmaking and Drawing. In 1981, Maria Carmen moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend the University of New Mexico. She earned an MA in Art and an MFA in Printmaking. The study of the iconography of cordel was a related interest she pursued. She has done fieldwork in seven northeastern Brazilian states and in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In the United States, she has curated exhibitions in New Mexico and Georgia, and has lectured and written on the images that introduce folhetos de cordel.
Maria Carmen was director of El Consejo de las Artes Hispanas, a project of the Doña Ana Arts Council in Las Cruces, New Mexico, was the assistant director of the Mexican Cultural Center in Dallas, and helped to create the infrastructure for the establishment of the Hispanic Cultural Center of Idaho in Nampa. In 1998, she became director of the Folk and Traditional Arts Program of the Idaho Commission on the Arts. At the ICA, her commitment to cultural conservation and social justice provides the focus for the Folk & Traditional Arts Program, which documents and supports the expressive cultures of established and newcomer communities of immigrants and refugees who make a home in Idaho.
American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
Maggie Kruesi is a folklorist and cataloger at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, where she provides access to audio, audiovisual, and mixed format archival collections and advises on implementing standards for creating descriptive metadata for the Center's digital projects. Before coming to the Library of Congress in 2004, she worked at the University of Pennsylvania as a librarian and manuscripts cataloger. She earned her MA and PhD in Folklore and Folklife at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also taught courses in folk narrative; migration and immigration; folk drama; festivity and celebration; ritual practices; and urban folklore.
Central Library of the State University of Paraíba
Digital Preservation: Converting Existing Collections of Cordel
Abstract: Literatura de cordel is a good choice for digital conversion due to its size and pamphlet format, as well as the impermanence of the paper used. Conversion addresses both preservation and access. Many libraries in Brazil are converting their cordel collections to digital form, yet issues of copyright are limiting those endeavors. In many cases, "ownership" of a cordel item is not clear. Is it shared by the poet, woodcut artist and publisher equally? This paper summarizes the digital conversion efforts in Brazil, while focusing on one library's attempts to overcome the challenges of copyright clearance.
Biography: Manuela Maia is a professor of archival studies and Director of Libraries at the State University of Paraíba (UEPB) in northeastern Brazil. The UEPB cordel collection which she manages is the largest in the world with 9,992 unique titles. Since 2009, Manuela has coordinated several projects to develop and implement a web application for managing cordel in the UEPB Library, including technical processing and scanning the cordel collection into a database.
Back to Top
Cordel, Cantoria and Repente: Song Contests, Improvised Poetry and the Popular Music of Northeastern Brazil
Abstract: By definition, literatura de cordel is a literature that exists in printed form, but parallel to it is repente, an improvised poetry that is often performed in musical contexts. This talk will examine the relationship between written cordel literature and improvised forms, particularly the cantoria, or song contest, which, although improvised, follows strict rules of composition. I will also examine the coco or embolada, a form of rapid-fire improvised poetry that follows the same rules as cantoria, and is a common fixture at the venues where cordel literature is found. I will demonstrate the medieval Iberian background of the musical styles associated with the performance of cordel, and their presence in other parts of Latin America, particularly Cuba. A uniquely Brazilian component of cordel's medieval legacy is the use of the rabeca, or folk fiddle, played by the vendors of cordel at Northeastern markets, many of whom are blind. The last section will deal with the many influences of cordel on the contemporary popular music of northeastern Brazil, leading to the revival of the rabeca and other identifiably medieval elements.
Biography: Morton Marks is an ethnomusicologist, folklorist and music producer. He holds a BA in romance languages and literatures from Rutgers University, an MA in Latin American Studies from Stanford University, and a PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. He taught for many years at the City College of New York, New York University, University of Pennsylvania and Yale. He has organized music and dance programs for the Museum of Natural History in New York, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, and Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and has directed documentation projects for the Brooklyn Historical Society (Hispanic Communities of Brooklyn), and the Rockland County (NY) Historical Society (the county's Haitian community). He has carried out field research in Brazil and the Caribbean, and three of his field recordings were released by Smithsonian Folkways. He was co-editor of the Endangered Music Series, co-sponsored by Rykodisc and the American Folklife Center, and of the Alan Lomax Caribbean Voyage Series on Rounder Records.
Cordel as Theme and Practice in Brazilian Popular Music
Abstract: Popular Music of the Brazilian Northeast has had a close relationship to literatura de cordel since the first decades of the twentieth century, when popular troubador Catulo da Paixão Cearense borrowed many of his themes from traditional works widely circulated in cordel form, and in turn helped propagate the further expansion of cordel. Subsequent artists like Luiz Gonzaga and Jackson do Pandeiro drew on the cordel tradition, and became celebrated heroes of new cordel works. In the past twenty years, musicians have used cordel both as a symbol of popular authenticity and as a database of stories and gestures. Performers like Lenine and Cordel do Fogo Encantado invoke cordel as theme and model, but also as the embodiment of a flexible approach to popular narrative.
Biography: Bryan McCann is Associate Professor of History and Brazilian Studies at Georgetown University. He directed Georgetown's Brazilian Studies Program between 2006 and 2010. He has a doctorate in History from Yale University. He has written extensively on Brazilian popular culture, ranging from investigation of the evolution of samba and choro in early 20th century Brazil through analysis of the latest telenovelas and blogs. He has published two books, Throes of Democracy: Brazil Since 1989 (2008) and Hello, Hello Brazil: Popular Music and the Making of Modern Brazil (2004).
Rio de Janeiro Office, Library of Congress
Digital Preservation: Web Archiving of Cordel
Abstract: Now, with Twitter and blogs, the world is catching up with what literatura de cordel was able to accomplish in analog form since the turn of the last century. The latest news and hottest topics were shared with the community in artistic form via cordel pamphlets. It's no surprise, then, that the cordel community is embracing the new technology with zeal. This presentation addresses the challenges for a library attempting to acquire and preserve "born digital" cordel materials.
Biography: Debra McKern is the Director of the Library of Congress Rio de Janeiro Office, a position she has held since 2008. Prior to joining LC's Overseas Operations Division, Ms. McKern held management positions in the preservation of library materials at the Library of Congress, Emory University, and Indiana University, and has taught graduate-level preservation courses. Over the past 35 years, the Library of Congress Rio Office has worked with the American Folklife Center and the Hispanic Division to build the Library's cordel collection into the second largest in the world (9,103 titles). Rio acquisitions librarians travel extensively to the northeastern and northern states of Brazil, obtaining cordel through book fairs and visits to authors and cordel associations.
Back to Top
American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
Valda Morris-Slack is a processing archivist at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Born and raised in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, she received her MLS at the Catholic University, Washington D.C. Ms. Morris-Slack is the curator of several multi-format collections in the American Folklife Center's Archive and has been instrumental in preserving, providing online access and exhibiting these materials.
Collections and Services, Library of Congress
Michael Neubert is a supervisory digital projects specialist at the Library of Congress for Collections and Services, a position he has held since 2009. One aspect of his work is coordinating the selection of web sites for archiving and addition to the permanent collections of the Library of Congress. Mr. Neubert has had a number of different assignments during his twenty-one years at the Library of Congress, including eight months as director of the Cairo Office in 2008 and more than a decade in the European Division as a reference librarian focusing on Russian-speaking Eurasia.
Gonçalo Ferreira da Silva.
Gonçalo Ferreira da Silva
Academia Brasileira de Literatura de Cordel, Rio De Janeiro
My Life in Cordel: Poet, Vendor, and Publisher
Abstract: This presentation (in Portuguese) provides an insider's perspective on the world of cordel literature. The speaker will chronicle his forty-five years as author, vendor, and publisher of cordel poetry and will discuss how the process has changed in his lifetime. Ideas for cordel poetry may spring from folktales, legends, current events, and history. How does the creative process work? Does inspiration first arise from creating the poetry, the woodblock prints, or both at once? The unique role of a cordel publisher and vendor will also be explored.
Biography: Author Gonçalo Ferreira da Silva was born in the city of Ipu, Ceará in 1937. At the age of fourteen, he came to Rio de Janeiro, where in 1963 he published his first book, Um Resto de Razão (A Remnant of Reason), a collection of tales from the Northeast region of Brazil, and his first poem, Punhos Rígidos (Rigid Fists) in a cordel chapbook. In 1978, Gonçalo began producing cordel literature. He was editor of the newspaper A Voz do Nordeste (The Voice of the Northeast) and the journal Abnorte-Sul from 1980 to 1988. He was also one of the founders of the Academia Brasileira de Literatura de Cordel (Brazilian Academy of Literatura de Cordel in Rio de Janeiro), served as its first president from 1980-1988, and continues to serve on its Board of Directors. Gonçalo Ferreira da Silva is the author of such poems as "Meninos de Rua e a Chacina da Candelária" ("The Street Children and the Massacre of Candelária"), and "Mahatma Gandhi," which earned him recognition from the Embassy of India and has been translated into English by Manoel Santa Maria. Several of his poems have also been translated into French, Spanish, German, and Japanese.
Back to Top
University of California, Berkeley
Keynote Address: Here Today, Here Tomorrow: The Survival and Continuing Transformation of Brazilian Literatura de Cordel
Abstract: This talk centers on the many things that are different about today's cordel stories — and also the many things that connect these tales to the past and suggest its ongoing existence in and beyond the Northeast of Brazil. These connections include its poetic structures — which owe as much to backlands poet-improvisers as to Iberian broadsides and ballads — and its authors' sense of responsibility to their public. The differences include the increasingly digital aspects of the "stories on a string" formerly chanted in open-air markets, as well as the growing presence of female poets within the cordel tradition. The fluid portrait presented here draws on the author's over three decades of fieldwork in Brazil, and especially on interviews with poets recorded between 1978 and 1982 and between 2003 and 2010.
Biography: Candace Slater is Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches courses in Brazilian literature and culture. She has been doing research on folk and popular traditions in Brazil, other parts of Latin America, and the Iberian Peninsula for much of her scholarly career. Her background in the social sciences and literature is evident in her concern for the ways that folk and popular stories work within the world. She began doing research on the Brazilian literatura de cordel in the late 1970s, and actually sold cordel pamphlets for several months in an open-air market in Recife in order to better engage in conversations with the cordel's traditional customers. She is presently completing a book that compares past and present versions of cordel tales, pilgrimage narratives, and accounts of enchanted nature. The author of seven books and numerous articles, she has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Tinker Foundation. The Brazilian government has recognized her work with both the Ordem de Rio Branco and the Ordem de Mérito Cultural — an honor rarely awarded to non-Brazilians. Slater's books include Entangled Edens: Visions of the Amazon (2003), Dance of the Dolphin: Transformation and Disenchantment in the Amazonian Imagination (1994), Stories on a String: The Brazilian Literatura de Cordel (1989), and Trail of Miracles: Stories from a Pilgrimage in Northeast Brazil (1986).
Marli Gomes Soares
Rio de Janeiro Office, Library of Congress
Read her article: "The Enchanted World of Cordel: A Life’s Work Acquiring Literatura de Cordel for the Library of Congress"
Marli Soares has been working as an acquisitions librarian for the Library of Congress Office in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for thirty-five years. She travels to twenty states in central and northern Brazil: Acre, Alagoas, Amazonas, Amapá, Bahia, Ceará, Distrito Federal, Goiás, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pará, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Rondônia, Roraima, Sergipe and Tocantins. Marli has made innumerable acquisitions trips to distant cities of Brazil in her long career with the Library. Among the major cities that she frequently visits are Salvador, Recife, Brasília, Fortaleza, João Pessoa and Manaus.
Marli is the Rio Office expert in cordel literature. In 2010, she traveled to Campina Grande in Paraíba state to meet with librarians at the state university regarding their extensive cordel collection. Marli’s visit became important local news, with coverage by the local newspapers. She also had an opportunity to promote the work of the Library during a recent acquisitions trip to Fortaleza, when she was interviewed by the newspaper Jornal do Ceará and Radio Ceará radio station.
Iêda Siqueira Wiarda
Hispanic Division, Library of Congress
Biography: Iêda de Barros Siqueira Wiarda has been the Luso-Brazilian specialist at the Library of Congress since 1990. She was born in Belo Horizonte, Minas, Brazil, where she attended Colégio Izabela Hendrix and where she graduated magna cum laude. Sponsored by the Department of State, she came to the United States as an exchange student. She obtained her PhD in International Relations at the University of Florida. She has taught and/or lectured in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Brazil, and Japan. She has written articles on cordel and given presentations on cordel literature. Se is on the boards of several national and international professional organizations and has been a consultant for the Department of State. She received the medal of the Rio Branco Order, a high Brazilian civilian award, for her efforts at improving U.S.-Brazilian relations.
Florida International University
Gayle Williams has been Latin American and Caribbean Information Services Librarian at Florida International University since 2007. She received her MLS at the University of Texas at Austin, and her MA in Latin American Studies from the University of New Mexico, with an emphasis on Brazilian literature and modern history. She first learned about literatura de cordel while studying Portuguese at Texas. As Ibero-American cataloger and literature selector at UNM, she organized and cataloged several hundred pieces of cordel. She is an active member of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials. At FIU she also holds the role of Co-Director, Digital Library of the Caribbean.