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Abstract

Novas Cartas Portuguesas (New Portuguese Letters), co-authored by Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta, and Maria Velho da Costa, was banned in 1972 in Portugal for exploring sensitive issues such as women's oppression under the Catholic patriarchy. Given that police action against the authors soon became the focus of an international feminist protest in 1972-73, existing discussions of the book's reception often focus almost exclusively on what may be called its political life. I propose to approach the book from a new angle, with the purpose of uncovering its theoretical dimension as a literary-critical text that may have played an important role in helping to shape feminist intellectual directions of the 1970s. Specifically, I analyze how a general insistence on the political life of Novas Cartas contributed to marginalizing the work on a theoretical level, transforming it into a "strange" (Ahmed) textual body out of place. In a manner similar to what would later happen to the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector as a result of Hélène Cixous's feminist sponsorship of her work, this marginalization helped define the boundaries of "international feminism" as opposed to "Portuguese anti-fascism," according to a conception of the Lusophone cultural sphere as an anachronistic feminine space for political action, entirely disconnected from the centers where feminist theory is made.

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