Literatura de Cordel = String Literature: Popular Folk Stories From the Northeast of Brazil

On Display

March 7, 2014 – July 31, 2014


Gallery on Five, level 5

This exhibition accompanied the campus-wide series Brasil: Beneath the Surface, sponsored by the Department of Spanish & Portuguese and the Kennedy Center.

Exhibition Handout

Cordel literature literally means “string literature” in Portuguese. The inexpensively printed chapbooks contain popular poetry, and typically portray traditional folk tales, Bible stories, local and international political events, historical figures, famous literary works, and moral tales. More recently, they have also reflected current issues related to people’s lives such as the national health system, sustainable agricultural projects, environmental awareness, etc. They are typically hung from strings, when sold at local fairs or by street vendors in the Northeast area of Brazil, mainly in the states of Paraíba, Pernambuco, and Ceará.

Usually printed in black and white, their covers are illustrated with stunning woodcuts (xilogravuras.) It is customary for the authors (cordelistas) to sing or recite aloud the contents of their books to large crowds in markets or public gatherings.

The Lee Library has a small collection of cordéis that were reprinted by the Academia Brasileira de Literatura de Cordel, and they are currently hanging on a string on level 5. The exhibition also presents several animated cordéis, a new genre in the online environment, projected on one of the walls. Bring your smart phone to connect to QR codes on the posters for additional music or documentaries.