Date of Award

5-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Anne Shifrer

Abstract

In 1954, former U.S. poet laureate Elizabeth Bishop wrote in a letter from Brazil to Robert Lowell, a dear friend and fellow poet: "With much love and saudades as they say here, a very nice word that seems to include all the sentiments of missing friends in one.” This insightful observation illuminates a concept central to Brazilian culture which has been designated one of the most difficult words to translate. Later, Bishop defined the idea as “the characteristic Brazilian longing or nostalgia,” which she “strongly associates with homesickness.” Bishop’s fascination with the concept, I argue, is more than that of a distant cultural observer. As her comprehension of saudade developed, the idea completely altered her own understanding of loss, home and even Bishop’s own art. This is evident, not only in her letters to Lowell, but also in her own poems and short stories about Brazil and her childhood in Nova Scotia. By understanding the role of saudade in the work of Elizabeth Bishop, scholars are able to comprehend not only the importance of this Portuguese concept in her own work but also the complexity of the poet’s cultural identity.

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