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Being Portuguese in Spanish: Reimagining Early Modern Iberian Literature, 1580–1640

John William Wade

Among the many consequences of Spain’s annexation of Portugal from 1580 to 1640 was an increase in the number of Portuguese authors writing in Spanish. One can trace this practice as far back as the medieval period, although it was through Gil Vicente, Jorge de Montemayor, and others that Spanish-language texts entered the mainstream of literary expression in Portugal. Proficiency in both languages gave Portuguese authors increased mobility throughout the empire. For those with literary aspirations, Spanish offered more opportunities to publish and greater readership, which may be why it is nearly impossible to find a Portuguese author who did not participate in this trend during the dual monarchy.

Over the centuries these authors and their works have been erroneously defined in terms of economic opportunism, questions of language loyalty, and other reductive categories. Within this large group, however, is a subcategory of authors who used their writings in Spanish to imagine, explore, and celebrate their Portuguese heritage. Manuel de Faria e Sousa, Ângela de Azevedo, Jacinto Cordeiro, António de Sousa de Macedo, and Violante do Céu, among many others, offer a uniform yet complex answer as to what it means to be from Portugal, constructing and claiming their Portuguese identity from within a Castilianized existence. Whereas all texts produced in Iberia during the early modern period reflect the distinct social, political, and cultural realities sweeping across the peninsula to some degree, Portuguese literature written in Spanish offers a unique vantage point from which to see these converging landscapes. Being Portuguese in Spanish explores the cultural cross-pollination that defined the era and reappraises a body of works that uniquely addresses the intersection of language, literature, politics, and identity.


“This fascinating and very readable book has an extensive bibliography and all Portuguese and French passages are translated into English (while Spanish passages are not). It is thoroughly researched, with references to numerous authorities in the field and to recent scholarship, and. Moreover, it is written with care and precision. Being Portuguese in Spanish will help scholars of Early Modern Literature in Spanish and/or Portuguese gain a greater appreciation of literature from the Iberian Peninsula and will inspire them to conduct further research on this little-known topic.”

Mary-Anne Vetterling, Hispania. For the complete review, see Hispania, 103.4 (2020) 632–33.

“… the contributions of this study to the field of Iberian Studies and to a renewed understanding of Portuguese authors who chose to write in Spanish during the sixty years of the Dual Monarchy are manyfold and extremely relevant. Not only does Being Portuguese in Spanish shed new light on a valuable corpus of lesser-known works in need of being (re)discovered, but it also makes a very compelling case for the reappraisal of the concept of national literary canon, both Spanish and Portuguese, within the context of Iberian early modern literature. It calls into question whether the construction of a literary canon should be determined merely by linguistic issues or whether language choice should be understood in relation with concerns over readership, audience, and dissemination. As Wade rightly concludes, “a Portuguese writer in a Spanish costume … is only a contradiction for those unwilling to give the texts and contexts of early modern Iberia a serious reading” (191). Wade’s readings in this study are serious, engaging, illuminating, and, it is hoped, merely the first of many more such readings to come.”

Anton García-Fernández, Journal of Lusophone Studies. For the complete review, see Journal of Lusophone Studies, 5.2 (2020): 180–82.


“This important book makes a commendable contribution to the field of Iberian literary studies. It offers readers a panoramic and intricate understanding of the cross-cultural production and reception of an often-misunderstood period and set of texts—work written in Spanish by Portuguese authors during the Iberian Union. The author shows how this hybrid cultural production that crosses linguistic and cultural boundaries creates nonetheless a coherent national discourse and an intelligible rhetoric of nationhood.”

Estela Vieira, Indiana University


Jonathan Wade is an Associate Professor of Spanish at Meredith College. He specializes in early modern Spanish and Portuguese literature, with particular emphasis on the comedia, Don Quixote and Cervantes, and Iberian Studies (1580–1640). He has published articles in the Bulletin of the Comediantes, Hispania, and Comedia Performance, among other journals, as well as essays in various book-length studies. Overall, it is the crossing of borders (linguistic, national, genre) within literature that propels his scholarly inquiry. Originally from California, he currently resides in Raleigh, NC, with his wife and two daughters.


PSRL 78. Paper. $45.00. e-Book available. 


Page last updated on 26 June 2021.

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