, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 41-49

First online:

Human values and spiritual values: Traces of Prometheus in Portuguese literature and criticism

  • Ângela FernandesAffiliated withDepartamento de Literaturas Românicas, Faculdade de Letras, Universidade de Lisboa, Alameda da Universidade

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This paper follows the traces of Prometheus in several Portuguese poems and philosophical essays published in the first half of the twentieth century. The analysis shows how these texts, despite their varied discursive and ideological stance, significantly use the reference to Prometheus to stress the importance of spiritual values in the definition of humanness. Guerra Junqueiro’s poetic draft Prometeu Libertado [Prometheus Unbound] and Leonardo Coimbra’s philosophical narrative “Uma Fala de Espíritos” [“A Talk of Spirits”] recall the antithesis between the material world and the spiritual world represented by Prometheus and Christ, while depicting the future of humankind as a balanced reunion of both dimensions. Then, in the historical and political essay “Prometeu. Ensaio espiritual da Europa” [“Prometheus. Spiritual essay of Europe”], Almada Negreiros grants Prometheus a major spiritual significance in Western culture, and the suffering hero is also regarded as the symbol of human spiritual demands in the poem Canto de Prometeu [Prometheus’s Chant], by João de Barros.