The Lusiads as a Travel Narrative

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  • Topic: Portugal, Os Lusíadas, Vasco da Gama
  • Pages : 7 (2718 words )
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  • Published : May 18, 2012
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The Lusiads is an epic poem written by Luiz Vaz de Camoes written in the 16th century, first published in 1572. Thus, it is considered to be a Renaissance text. This essay will discuss the role of exploration during the Renaissance and how this affected the written pieces of the time by considering The Lusiads. The significance of travel and setting in this text will be discussed. Furthermore, the focus will move to how travel and the setting relates to nationalism and imperialism of the time. Also, the way in which the Europeans perceived those foreign to them will also be considered. Travel and exploration was on the rise during the time of the renaissance, influenced by this new interest in the world as well as a desire to trade. The Renaissance term is a French word that translates to “rebirth”. It was a movement that began in Italy and moved throughout Europe between the 14th century and 16th century. There was a revival of interest in classical antiquity (Melani, 1). It was an era where thinking and learning was the focus, as opposed to living a pious and godly life. People had a greater interest in the world around them. This greater interest moved them to look beyond the boundaries and borders of their own countries and to explore the world. This exploration was made possible through the development of technology with regards to ship building and navigation (Graham & Roux, 2). It did not end with exploration. European countries were always attempting to extend their empire. Expansion was on the increase during the Renaissance due to all the new land discovered. These places held commodities that were new and useful to the Europeans, thus they conquered the land and engaged in trade. It is in this time period in which The Lusiads is written. The poem is about a group of Portuguese sailors led by Vasco da Gama on journey from Portugal to India, making a stop in the Cape of Storms, at the tip of Africa. It is considered to be a national epic as it describes the great things the Portuguese have done. It is written in Homeric style and recounts the Portuguese voyages of discovery during the 15th and 16th century. The Lusiads was based on Vasco da Gama’s diary of when he travelled around the Cape to India from 1497 to 1498. Thus, a precise link is evident between the Lusiads and the importance of exploration at the time. The Lusiads is considered to be a travel narrative which seems obvious as its main focus is to retell the Portuguese stories of exploration. Yet the term travel narrative extends much further than a simple recounting of an exploration experience. The travel narrative is firstly a retelling of the adventures of the explorer. Secondly, is explains the foreign customs of the natives of the land they are discovering. It shows how these customs impacted the European explorers and how these explorers interacted with the natives. These travel narratives were written to encourage those back home to desire to partake in more expeditions to these foreign lands. According to Mary Louise Pratt, travel writing is the literature of “transculturation” where those who are geographically separated come into contact with each other establishing relations (Pratt, Imperial Eyes 8). In essence this means that travel narratives describe the encounters between Europeans and the foreigners and depicts how they interact. Yet in the travel narrative we do not find a truthful account of how these two different groups. We are only able to see the foreign land and its inhabitants through the eyes of the Europeans (Kang, 9). Thus travel narratives only provide us with one perspective. Thus, travel narratives are texts describing voyages of these great European fleets to unchartered land and these texts are also written to increase national pride. A good example of how national pride is expressed in the Lusiads is found in stanza 89 of Canto IX, where the mariners find themselves on the Isle of Love, a dreamlike place that is home...
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