(ABOVE): ADAMASTOR, from LUIS DE CAMOES' OS LUSIADAS
In Canto IX of Os Lusiadas (1572), Luís de Camões conjured up a floating “Isle of Love” as a reward for the dangers and privations that Portuguese sailors endured on Vasco da Gama’s voyage round the Cape to the Indies. This mythical island was amply stocked with virgins for the sailors’ sport, and rills and vales and limpid streams abounded—all modeled on the most pleasant features of the home country world (though, unlike the home country, densely supplied with game animals). Venus was responsible for this island, and it was her sympathy for the suffering sailors that prompted her to physically block their voyage (somewhere off the coast of East Africa) with the isle that one translator called a “Venusberg.” Although Camões’ account has many of the attributes of a founding “orientalist” text, it is largely neglected by postcolonialists. This paper will demonstrate how the expansionist drive of sixteenth-century Portugal was intertwined with fantasies of a zone of unregulated sexuality.
PAPER PRESENTED AT THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE,