“The Dead Must be Killed Once Again”: Plagiotropia as Critical Literary Practice

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Abstract (in English): 

Húmus by Herberto Helder (1967) is recognized for its direct quotation from Raul Brandão’s 1921 poem of the same name. However, Helder’s work is more than the simple intertextual suggestion of a text: it transforms it, putting into motion its latent power, reviving it. As may be read in the epigraph of this work, the "words, sentences, fragments, images" from Húmus are used by Helder in order to achieve, through re-writing, a full reading of the text by Brandão. Such reading multiplies and transforms the meanings that are crystalized in the work by Brandão, thus articulating the scope the poet refers: "freedoms, freedom."

Maria dos Prazeres Gomes, in Outrora Agora (Once Now, 1993), seeks to map the dialogical relationships in Portuguese poetry of invention, which according to the term coined by Haroldo de Campos, constitute a "plagiarian/plagiotropic movement of the culturally settled forms" (19). Including Helder’s texts in a vast set of texts marked by a "critical-ludic-transgressive attitude" (22), Gomes defines plagiotropia within a conceptual domain (20) that involves several theoretical concepts such as metalanguage, intertextuality, dialogism and parody. Despite having articulated all these concepts, the critical-ludic-transgressive attitude of Portuguese poetry involves, in her opinion, an enhanced "operation of translation in the sense of a critical rereading of tradition" (20).

To creatively explore the plagiotropic relationships between Helder and Brandão’s work, we have engaged in our own plagiarian experiment in the creation of a third work. The text generator, also entitled Húmus, draws upon its predecessors as databases, allowing readers to, once again, re-read the tradition and conceptualize the links between its historical forbears.

(Source: Author's Introduction)

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Alvaro Seica