August 31, 2011 Library of Congress Hosts September Symposium on Brazilian Popular Literature

Press Contact: Erin Allen (202) 707-7302
Public Contact: American Folklife Center (202) 707-5510

Literatura de cordel, literally “string literature,” refers to popular booklets or chapbooks originally hung along cords strung across marketplace stalls to attract buyers. A tradition brought from Portugal to northeastern Brazil in the 16th century, literatura de cordel features traditional poetry on many topics, often illustrated by eye-catching woodblock images. (The tradition is often known popularly simply as “cordel.”) The wide-ranging themes covered in cordel poetry include descriptions and critiques of international and local current events, humor, satire, adventure, romance, religion, heroes, bandits, environmental concerns, and educational topics such as medical information and child-care advice. Today, cordel poems are no longer found solely in northeastern Brazil but also in the larger cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In addition to being printed in traditional chapbook fashion, they are found widely on the Internet, including on cordel-specific blogs, where they continue to reflect the voice of the Brazilian people.

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is sponsoring a symposium titled “Literatura de Cordel: Continuity and Change in Brazilian Popular Literature,” Monday, Sept. 26 and Tuesday, Sept. 27 in Room 119 on the first floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington D.C.

Presented in collaboration with the Library’s Hispanic Division, the Poetry and Literature Center, the Library’s overseas office in Rio de Janeiro, and the Embassy of Brazil in Washington, D.C., the symposium is free of charge, but registration is required. For a complete schedule and to register online, visit

The American Folklife Center’s collections of Brazilian literatura de cordel are among the most extensive in the world. The symposium will examine the artistry, narrative and iconography of cordel in order to explore the tradition during the recent past and to encourage research on these collections. The symposium is timed to coincide with the Organization of American States 2011 Inter-American Year of Culture.

Cordel scholars speaking at the symposium will include anthropologist Candace Slater, literary researcher Mark Curran, historians Andrew Chesnut and Bryan McCann, ethnomusicologist Morton Marks, folk art specialist Maria Carmen Gambliel, and Debra McKern, director of the Library of Congress’s Overseas Operations Office in Rio de Janeiro.

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference, service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. For more information, visit

The Hispanic Division, established in 1939, is the Library of Congress’s center for the study of the cultures and societies of the Iberian Peninsula, Latin America, the Caribbean, and other areas with significant Spanish or Portuguese influence. For more information about the division’s resources and programs, visit

The Library of Congress Rio Office, opened in 1966, is one of six overseas offices around the world established to acquire, catalog, preserve and distribute research materials from countries where materials cannot be obtained through commercial sources. One of its main functions is the acquisition of materials, among them cordel literature. For more information, visit


PR 11-152
ISSN 0731-3527