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Moorings

Portuguese Expansion and the Writing of Africa

2008
Author:

Josiah Blackmore

Moorings

How Africa was perceived in the early modern imaginary

In this first book to study Portuguese texts about Africa, Moorings brings an important but little-known body of European writings to bear on contemporary colonial thought. Images of Africa as monstrous, dangerous, and lush were created in early Portuguese imperial writings and dominated its representation in European literature. Moorings establishes these key works in their proper place: foundational to Western imperial discourse.

From Zurara’s history of the conquest of Ceuta to Camões’s Os Lusíadas, from the possessiveness of early travel narrative to the melancholy inherent in the epic of possession, Moorings takes us on a journey sure to enlighten anyone interested in the birth of European imperialism.

Ricardo Padron, University of Virginia

In this first book to study Portuguese texts about Africa, Moorings brings an important but little-known body of European writings to bear on contemporary colonial thought. Images of Africa as monstrous, dangerous, and lush were created in early Portuguese imperial writings and dominated its representation in European literature. Moorings establishes these key works in their proper place: foundational to Western imperial discourse.

Attentive to history as well as the nuances of language, Josiah Blackmore leads readers from the formation of the “Moor” in medieval Iberia to the construction of a full colonial imaginary, as found in the works of two writers: the royal chronicler Gomes Eanes de Zurara and the epic poet Luís de Camões. Blackmore’s original work helps to explain how concepts and myths—such as the “otherness” of Africa and Africans—originated, functioned, and were perpetuated.

Delving into the Portuguese imperial experience, Moorings enriches our understanding of historical and literary imagination during a significant period of Western expansion.

Moorings

Josiah Blackmore is professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Toronto. He is author of Manifest Perdition: Shipwreck Narrative and the Disruption of Empire (Minnesota, 2002) and editor of C. R. Boxer's Tragic History of the Sea (Minnesota, 2001).

Moorings

From Zurara’s history of the conquest of Ceuta to Camões’s Os Lusíadas, from the possessiveness of early travel narrative to the melancholy inherent in the epic of possession, Moorings takes us on a journey sure to enlighten anyone interested in the birth of European imperialism.

Ricardo Padron, University of Virginia

Moorings creates a significant place and role for Africa in the historical and literary imagination of the European colonialist expansion. I know of no other book that analyzes the first European writings on Africa with such detail, clarity, and diversity.

K. David Jackson, Yale University

Excellent, even groundbreaking.

Choice

Moorings is compelling reading for ethnographers and historians, for scholars of comparative literatures and European imperialism, and for anyone interested in the imaginary and the construction or invention of non-European spaces by Europeans. It offers a new dimension for students and practitioners of imperial discourse analysis and postcolonial studies and provides a largely ignored perspective on contemporary colonial thinking.

MLN

The book shows an impressive depth of knowledge about the historical, cultural and literary context within which these texts about empire were written. Indeed, it is refreshing to read a contemporary critique of the writing of early European expansion that does not overdetermine the interpretation by projecting out world onto that world.

The Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

This book concisely deals, with abundant notes and an extensive bibliography, with a subject far less discussed but in essence no less fascinating than the Spanish conquista in the New World. This new paperback is scholarly and readable and is to be recommended highly.

Chronique

Moorings, Josiah Blackmore’s latest monograph, is an outstanding, highly original contribution to our understanding of Portugal’s imagination of Africa. This immensely readable study draws its reader along with an intelligent, but never overpowering, dose of theory and with superlative and innovative interpretations of key texts from the period. As Blackmore ably demonstrates throughout his study, even texts that may appear merely technical,
such as the rutter travel logs (roteiros) that were often the textual counterpart to the Portuguese expansion, reveal much about the birth of a colonizing mindset and the predispositions and prejudices that informed them.

Comparative Literature Studies

In writing that is both intellectually stimulating and critically subtle, Blackmore argues a persuasive case strongly supported by the textual evidence he examines.

Canadian Journal of African Studies