Portugal's First Queer Novel: Rediscovering Visconde de Vila-Moura's Nova Safo (1912)

  • Anna M. Klobucka University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
Keywords: Decadence, modernism, affect, scrapbook, reparative reading


This study seeks to recover the novel Nova Safo (1912) by Visconde de Vila-Moura from its marginal status in Portuguese literary history by arguing for its cultural relevance as Portugal’s first queer novel. Given the extremely limited number and scope of existing critical approaches to the text, my reading is oriented by a reparative strategy that aims first to remedy its precarious status as an archival object. I describe the novel's inchoate and cluttered collection of references, images, and storylines as a countercultural scrapbook of queer feeling, ruled by an antiquarian sensibility, whose structures of cohesion belong less to the realm of formal aesthetics than to the sphere of homophilic affective epistemology. Further, I chart Nova Safo's intersecting gestures of transitive embodiment—transnational, transgender, and transracial—by discussing the novel’s mournful evocation of three recently departed icons of fin-de-siècle literary culture: Oscar Wilde, Renée Vivien, and João da Cruz e Sousa.