2018 Issue 1


LOCATIONS/POSITIONALITIES: WOMEN’S WRITING IN XIX CENTURY BRAZIL

Release date:2018-04-27
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Rita Terezinha Schmidt*


ABSTRACT: Currently, the globalization, hegemony of marketplace doctrine, transnational capitalism and mediated mass culture consumption seem to have profound effects on national cultures. However, while profoundly affecting national cultures, this phenomena has, at the same time, stimulated the theorization of political, social, historical and symbolical implications subsumed and fostered by the technologies of nationalism, past and present. This article uses the background of the historical conditions resulting from the processes of colonization and slavery in Brazil, and examines some specific issues in non-canonical Brazilian fiction: of place, of time, of writing, of voices and positionalities, and tries to discuss the complex problems, namely, if it is possible to chart another representational economy that disturbs the genealogy of national narratives and, consequently, questions the idealistic configurations of nationhood.


KEYWORDS: Women’s Writing; Margin; Nationalism; Brazilian literature


In today’s critical agenda, the national has become, from the point of view of cultural comparative studies, a privileged topic of enquiry. While current global organizations, hegemony of marketplace doctrine, transnational capitalism and mediated mass culture consumption seem to have weakened to a great degree the discourses on our imagined communities1with profound effects on national cultures, theses effects have not signaled or decreed the end of nationalism as a theme for debate in the academic/cultural scene.2On the contrary, this topic have stimulated a wealth of theorization of the political, social, historical and symbolical implications subsumed and fostered by the technologies of nationalism, past and present. In the scope of these studies, there is an understanding that the construction of nation-ness involves a series of determinations and mediations of both a local and a global kind and that modern cultures have developed, not as a single, unified entities that expand to include and incorporate differences, but as sites of negotiations and contestations, exchange and conflict across intra-national boundaries. 

Women’s writings in XIX Brazil have been ignored in literary historiography and, as of today, remain excluded from the sphere of institutionalized formal culture. Having been made visible to scholarship through research and editorial ventures in the last three decades or so, the growing body of non-canonical texts is not only producing  dissonances in relation to naturalized forms of representation and knowledge inscribed in dominant narratives of national identity but it is also throwing light upon the ideological assumptions that support the imaginary apparatus of nation-building, particularly the ones embedded in canonical novels considered foundational fictions.3 On considering women’s writing as a subaltern mode of production engendered by and localized at the nation’s gendered margins, a liminal space where difference is signified, I would like to make clear that, on the one hand, the term “margin” figures a metonym for the socio-cultural conditions in which authorship by women was regarded as a de-authorized writing/enunciation. On the other hand, margins stand as a metaphor for this space where gender and racial differences produce new signs of identity and meaning, other interpretations of sociality that coexist and contest the production of subjectivities portrayed in canonical fiction which as a rule, undermine feature privileged white male.

It is a well-known fact that literature, in the XIX century, played a key role in the constitution of the public sphere of culture, particularly in Latin America, and as a vehicle for national identity it was decisive in the construction of national imaginaries that were intimately associated with the political self-legitimation of the emerging Latin American nation-states. The symbolical expressive power of novels in constituting narratives of identity played a fundamental role in Benedict Anderson’s study of nationalisms in Europe in the XIX century. On examining non-canonical novels, that is, fictional works that were not legitimized as narratives of national identity, I want to point out how they challenge accepted representations of nationality predicated on the political and cultural domestication of intra-national differences to promote horizontal identifications that would enact and project the image of a national subject, from which women were excluded. My argument is that by examining non-canonical Brazilian fiction that probe into the complex problem of otherness against the backdrop of the historical conditions resulting from the processes of colonization and slavery in Brazil, it is possible to chart another representational economy that disturbs the genealogy of national narratives and, consequently, questions the idealistic configurations of nationhood. Furthermore, I may add that on examining XIX novels by women, we may derive powerful insights into the social order and into questions of power and violence during the Second Empire under the rule of the Emperor Dom Peter II. It would be deceptively simple to assign these narratives a minor status because they did not have historical impact at the time they were originally published. As a matter of fact, they did not have impact not only because the gendered position of the writers would not grant them intellectual credibility but because their novels as cultural narratives were not considered relevant in terms of encoding the dominant values and ideology of their time. The major challenge of our literary histories today is to redefine the status of counter-narratives of identity from the standpoint of questions such as: what cultural work do these novels perform as they are brought to life by research and critical scholarship more than a century after they were written? do the novels offer a clue to how we lived our human stories beyond the stories institutionalized by the historiographical  and critical traditions? The two Brazilian novels I will address are: D. Narcisa de Villar (1859) by Ana Luiza Azevedo e Castro and Ursula (1859) by Maria Firmina dos Reis.


I.Whose Nation? 

The uncertainty of the survival of the national paradigm at a time defined by some scholars as a post-national world, has brought along, paradoxically, the resurgence of the national, as an issue and as a category of analysis in the production of critical perspectives on culture and identity. This renewed scholarly interest in the technologies of nationhood and nationalisms emerges just when a bundle of processes called globalization - global economics and corporate capitalism, plus massive invasion of new technologies of mass communication - seems to weaken notions of national sovereignty and to wither away national boundaries to advance the idea of a borderless world, free of the political, historical and even geographical contingencies of the nation-state. This process has been defined by the historian Eric Hobsbawm as the new supranational restructuring of the globe4. Yet, it is important to point out that precisely in this new scenery, processes such as displacements, immigration, exile and diaspora have gained prominence in discussions on nationhood from the perspective of a variety of theoretical agendas in the areas of Human Sciences. So, even though concepts of nationhood are themselves becoming problematic in specific ways, particularly with today’s understanding that nations are not so clearly separated and distinguished by geopolitical boundaries, that cultural borders do not necessarily coincide with national borders, and that within these borders cultural diversity is the rule rather than the exception, the focus on the national has brought new insights for thinking the construction of subjectivities and processes of identifications within national spaces. 

To a great extent, the question of the national has become a question of how the sign-systems of a national culture have been formulated, what cultural descontinuities and ambivalences they make visible, how meanings and values are positioned, according to Edward Said, as zones of control or of abandonment, or recollection and of forgetting, of force or of dependnce, of exclusiveness or of sharing5. Today there is an understanding that modern western national cultures have historically developed not as homogeneous and unified entities based on consensus and on the contiguity of cultures promoted by nationalist and romantic discourses, but as sites of contestations, exchange and conflict across inter and intra-national boundaries. In this context, the paradigm insider/outsider, us/them, on which the modern nation forged the political and symbolical nexus of belongingness and on which national narratives depended for legitimacy and coherence has now been appropriated for discussions on intra-national differences, for disclosing the nation’s otherness, throwing into relief, the fictive universality of the identity of the people as one. Such a move explains the substitution of tropes of myth and typology used in discussions of modern nationalities such as the universals of European modernity that found the liberal nation-state - progress, civilizational  mission, equality, citizenship and human rights – by a range of terms like domination, suppression, diversity, margins and subalternity, used in a variety of ways to understand the complex layers of the formation of cultural identities within national boundaries. From this perspective, the recovery of women’s voices and writings have gained a functional intellectual value and role in that they allow reinterpretations of the traditions of thought that have shaped nations’ self-identities, including literary traditions. Most of all, women’s writings make visible significant absences in those traditions, absences as effects of the processes of national-social formations that have produced national subjects in specific cultural terms. This means that the perspective of alterity has brought along a sense of urgency to explore the meanings of intra-national differences within the cultural continuities that engendered national subjectivities compatible with the interests of the modern nation-state.  

In Latin American countries, the XIX century was the historical moment par excellence of the birth of new modern states emerging from the movements for Independence from Spanish and Portuguese rules. In these countries where the realities of political structures and social organization still bore the legacy of colonial and slave-holding state power, the construction of collective self-identity did not occur without unsolvable contradictions. The appropriation of   discourses couched on the ideals of European Enlightment, particularly, the romantic idea of the organic and natural nation constituted by an unproblematic “we” bound to participate in the purported universal civilization was translated into a homogenizing foundational thrust that started with the imposition of a national language that “forgot” and “erased” all previous linguistic and cultural manifestations.6 By setting the limits and conditions of national belonging, in relation to which all forms of differences should be assimilated, romantic nationalism in the XIX century operated as a set of inclusionary and exclusionary interpellations to bolster a unified subject. The fictive nature of such a claim predicated on the assumption of horizontal identifications, becomes quite evident in the context of the strong racial hierarchy, class divisions and gender asymmetries that marked the political organization of the societies of that period. On assessing the formation of the sphere of high culture in XIX century Latin American countries, the Uruguayan critic Hugo Achugar states that, as a rule, intellectuals constructed an ideal nation that did not correspond to the ethnic, social and cultural reality of the countries in which they lived.7His position follows the critical views of Angel Rama, from Peru, who pointed out in his work A cidade das letras[ São Paulo: Boitempo Editorial, 26th. edition, 2015.] (The lettered city) published originally in 1984, the articulation between the Latin American intellectual elite and instances of institutional power, including the power of writing in a predominantly illiterate society. In Brazil, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda in the classical work Raízes do Brasil8 (The roots of Brazil) published in 1936, affirms that the formation period of national identity was defined by the establishment of an intellectual elite, men of books and words who could not cope with the horrors of our day-to-day colonial underdevelopment and therefore, fabricated an imaginary world out of touch with the reality that surrounded them, a world of learning and refined taste. From this point of view, one can understand how the literary institution participated in the allocation of social empowerment and resources through national narratives defined as canonical. These narratives, that follow the European model of the historical novel, function as meta-narratives of the nation’s historical becoming as far as their regime of representation set patterns of belonging that inscribe ideological-symbolical codes for identifications required to forge a sense of nationality. According to the thesis advanced by Doris Sommer in her study of novels she defines as foundational fictions in spite of the different historical contexts and ideological specificities among Latin American countries, the figuration of nationality operates in a similar fashion, that is, through an erotic code present in romantic plots where love and marriage project non-violent reconciliations and alliances by which national unification is achieved. In short, all canonical novels end well in a kind of a cultural synthesis as the family becomes a metaphorical figure for the birth of a reconciled and integrated nation-state.  


II.From the Margins

Tracking down lost and neglected narratives that were published in the past but have been marginalized is part of this shift in perspective in reading the national, an effort that challenges the literary tradition and its historiography by opening up a space for change in the signification-function of the national sign-system in terms of supplementing a lack on the part of what is signified.9 To this regard, I would want to say that reading women’s texts,  which did not count as literature in XIX century Latin America has added  an important dimension to that effort because  it has made possible to throw light upon the ideological assumptions that maintained the institutional apparatus of nation-building, including here literary historiography and the critical establishment. For some scholars, reading texts by women with the intention of questioning the configuration of the literary canon means the demise of literature and aesthetic values. For other scholars, positioned as women in the academia, it means to challenge the cultural determination of codes of interpretation and value judgment inscribed in the academic culture, what means to bring the battle over values to bear on the genealogy of national narratives in terms of its politics of representation and on its representative status.

Women’s novels disclose the presence of tense interventions in the socio-semantic field of what has been called the hegemonic narratives of masculine nationality. Not all of the women writers benefited from the privileges of race and class that attended the cultural white elite and none of them had access to formal education, which means their schooling was limited to tutoring received in the private space of home. Yet, they shared the consciousness of a distinctive gendered positioning in relation to the system of identity and value enforced in the domestic and social spaces by the structure of colonial patriarchal power. So, their narratives play out the drama of nationhood in violent stories that undermine the celebratory and triumphant note of the white foreigner, of Portuguese descent (in the case of Brazil) – the aristocratic conqueror or the bourgeois entrepreneur - present in foundational narratives. As resistant texts to the social contract established under the colonial rule, they call into question the very idea of civilization, by probing into the plight of minorities – women, slaves and indigenous peoples – so as to raise questions on the hierarchy of gender, race and class in dramatic plots that highlight the authoritarian structures of the family, society and the state.

It is appropriate to point out the pioneer status of both novels in question, even though they do not figure in any Brazilian literary history but do have received some critical attention in the last two decades. D. Narcisa de Villar is among the first Brazilian “indianist” novel (so called because of the prominence given to a character of indian/ aboriginal - descent) and it was published just two years after José de Alencar’s O Guarani, a foundational novel that became required reading in the middle school system of education in Brazil in the XIX century. Ursula is the first anti-slavery novel in Brazil, written by a free slave woman and published sixteen years before the canonical novel A escrava Isaura by Bernardo Guimarães, considered an abolitionist novel. The structure of the novels is based on romantic love plots where the passionate accent is riddled with exacerbated emotions, obstacles, sacrifices and fatalistic determinations in line with what Markman Ellis, calls the rhetoric of tears10in his study on the development of the sentimental novel in XVIII century Great Britain. Yet, sentimentality must be understood as no mere sign of emotional indulgence but a philosophy that foregrounds the virtue of feeling as a moral prerogative from which the novels forge the imperative to appeal to the reader’s sympathy in relation to the social critique they advance. One may say that the transculturation of some of the distinctive marks of the sentimental novel in Brazil was a means for challenging the rationality of pragmatic masculinity associated with the enterprise of colonization, violence and oppression, major themes around which the novels engender their signifying difference. So, contrary to being the space for privileged arrangements that bring family unification and enhance erotic fulfillment, in both novels the family is the site of relationships tainted and doomed by the arrogance, lechery and greed of white men who can be father, brothers and uncles, representatives of the oligarchies of aristocratic planters or commercial class, all legally endowed with the status of property-owner, of land, of Indian women and of black slaves, not to say of white women as well. Violence brought about by the white man unchains a series of events that bring about the disclosure of secrets around birth and blood in family genealogy, in a fatalistic family pattern which define the narrative’s somber outcome. 

The subtitle of D. Narcisa de Villar is a legend of the colonial period and the narration begins with the portrayal of the three Villar brothers, Portuguese aristocrats who rule their land with an iron will during the colonization period in the 17the century. Their household is in charge of a slave woman named Efigênia, abducted from her aboriginal tribe, enslaved as a house servant and sexually abused by one of the Villar brothers, Dom Luís. Her son, a black male slave named Leonardo belongs to the generation of mixed blood, a bastard child who suffers the inequities produced under the slave-holding system which defines his worth as less than human. As he grows up he falls in love with Narcisa, sister of the Villar brothers, who had been brought from Portugal in her childhood to be raised by them. Leonardo does not know that he is the son of one of Narcisa’s brother Martin as this secret had been kept by his mother. The unfolding of events registers the tense atmosphere that evokes a tragic pattern. Narcisa decides to escape with Leonardo because of her brother’s determination to marry her to a rich property-holder, so the young couple flees to an island. The persecution that follows tracks them down to a cave in Honey Island where Narcisa is killed by her brother Martin and Leonardo by his own father. Efigênia who had come to warn the couple of the peril witnesses the murder of her son. The violence that erupts in the context of the patriarchal family disclose the hopelessness of lives deprived of worth and self-determination. Leonardo and Narcisa become sacrificial victims in a context where color and gender belonging define those who have power to decide over life and death of others. Another important aspect of the novel is the presence of oral inscriptions. Ana Luiza de Azevedo Castro draws the genesis of her narrative from popular sources of aboriginal lore according to which there is a curse on the island as the site of the murder of the young lovers. The narrator, a young woman named Tainá (an indian name) explains that the story had been passed on to her by two old aboriginal sisters, aunt Simôa and mother Micaela, who believed that the story they knew could explain the reason why the Honey Island was haunted. In her written account, the narrator uses aural/oral elements in her discourse, in epithets such as “daughter of whites” (Narcisa), “the big men” (her powerful father and uncle), “the son of the indian woman” (Leonardo, Efigênias’son), besides many references to bad omens and to the fury of natural elements, as storms, the turbulent sea and dark caves. The story is framed as a story of Anhangá, an aboriginal evil spirit that according to popular legend inhabits the island. So, the narrative draws its dramatic strength from collective memory as grounds for ethnic identifications since memory establishes a narrative of origin and belonging by which marginalized social groups such as the aboriginal nations recreate a sense of themselves as historical subjects.

Ursula is a novel that intervenes in the writing of race in fictions of nationhood that produced a homogeneous and consensual11, rather than a heterogeneous and conflictive Brazilian culture, by introducing the voice of slave narrators, a unique move in XIX century Brazilian literature. Contrary to canonical representations where slave memory is silenced or simply does not exist because collective forgetfulness is a necessary step to establish the foundation of the new nation, in Ursula this memory is rendered visible by two black characters/narrators – mother Susana and Tulio – who can speak out their sense of loss, homelessness and estrangement in a land they do not belong to, and express anger in the face of servitude and defilement. The use of a structure of embedded narratives allows Maria Firmina dos Reis to give voice to her black characters in acts of rebellion and self-affirmation. Overall, the plot is linear with some flashbacks of past events in the history of Ursula’s white family. The villain is Ursula’s uncle who besides murdering his brother and abandoning his bed-ridden widow, tries to seduce the niece who is defended by a young man named Tancredo. With the help of Tulio, a freed slave who is at the service of Tancredo, the young couple succeeds to escape a few times from the traps set by the jealous uncle who finally succeeds in the attempts to kill Tancredo in the evening of his wedding. Ursula becomes deranged and ends her life in a convent. The uniqueness of Ursula lies on the fact that it is the only novel where black characters are not whitened (miscigenated) and do recollect memories of their past family history.12Tulio is a freed slave, a proud man who claims his African blood in exchanges with Tancredo whose life he had saved when they first met. He voices his rebelliousness against the system, emphasizing his sense of homelessness, his outrage for having been brought to a strange land as a slave and who believed he had to fight for freedom after suffering the vilest defilement of his body. In his exchange with Tancredo he retrieves a sense of self and humanity as he claims that though his body has once crept and moaned in pain and servitude, his mind is free and can’t ever be enslaved by a white man’s will. There is also Mother Susana, an old woman slave and Tulio’s surrogate mother who takes the word to tell her stories of her happy African girlhood, of her captivity, of the physical and psychological torment inflicted on board of the slave-trading ship, and of the daily tortures in a foreign land, under the implacable rule of the Brazilian white master. So, the novel highlights narrated slave memories that bear a communality of experiences and becomes an act of resistance against the white’s silencing of the black voice. As this voice claims for historical visibility through the constitution of subject positions it interpellates the dominant imaginary of nationhood engendered in canonical fictions of the XIX century, written by male writers, where the white race defines the social norms and conditions of legitimate national belonging and in relation to which, all forms of differences are erased either by assimilation, marginalization or exclusion. 

To this respect, it is necessary to add that from the point of view of both writers, Maria Firmina dos Reis and Ana Luiza Azevedo e Castro, the institution of slavery to which both black and aboriginal individuals were subjected to was coextensive with that one of marriage. The white woman is also considered property (like the aboriginal Efigênia or the slave Mother Susana) to be exchanged for more property so the white master will secure a greater fortune and raise his economic status. On exploring the possibilities of domestic fiction, the writers were unable to denounce the incompatibility of love and marriage within the scope of the bourgeois ideology, particularly as it promises bliss and respectability while disavowing individual subjectivity and freedom. The alliance of domestic power and state power in the patriarchal form of social organization leaves no doubt that racial oppression and sexual oppression are the two sides of the same coin. From the perspective of both novels, the family and the state wither under the evil engendered by their structure of power relations.  

What also merits the critical attention is the fact that both novels are sites of displacement and disruption of the canonical stories of domestic unification, not only because of their narrative structure but also because of the incorporation of elements from the generic conventions of the European gothic, a minor genre associated to novels written by women in the XVIII century. Elements such as family doom, the tyrannical father/borther, the revenge motif, insinuation of incest, sadism and secrecy against the background of strange landscape signal the process of migration and transculturation of generic forms into the Brazilian context. But whereas in the English gothic novel these elements functioned to promote a flight into fantasy and an escape from the grim realities of 18th century female selfhood, what explains why the gothic has been thought of in terms of stereotypes, as something indigenous to woman’s fantasy,13in the novels by Brazilian women the gothic elements (significantly absent from novels that were incorporated into the national literary canon) have an outward political function: to disturb the structure of romance and nation-building, to dismantle the relation of productive sexuality and national consolidation, and to bring out stories that were silenced. Here lies the function of the discursive and structural strategies employed in both novels, strategies that encompass a dramatic pattern that exposes the fractures in the modern construction of nation as a narration. As the critic Homi Bhabha elaborates on and elucidates this question in theoretical terms: The problem is not simply the ‘selfhood’ of the nation as opposed to the otherness of other nations. We are confronted with the nation split within itself, articulating the heterogeneity of its population. The barred Nation It/Self, alienated from its eternal self-generation, becomes a liminal signifying space that is internally marked by the discourses of minorities, the heterogeneous histories of contending people, antagonistic authorities and tense locations of cultural difference.14

Retrieving novels from the past, still invisible and undervalued by traditional scholarship because they highlight female subjects and marginalized racial groups affected by the historical circumstances engendered by relations of domination and subordination is an important task as far as those texts can supplement the so called canon of Brazilian literature, that is the body of texts that have historically been given the status of representative of the literature produced in the country. Hopefully, comparative studies will enhance the confluence of non-canonical material with what is defined as canonical not only to prove how meanings and values can be dissonant but to bring open the contradictions and expose the differences of their value-coding systems. For now, the compelling stories and plot patterns, motifs and generic conventions that underline the textual identities of Brazilian women’s writings shape a geo-cultural imaginary that brings into a sharp focus what Homi Bhabha calls the nation split within itself. Infused with passion and a relentless belief in the sovereignty of human decency, their insights into the stories of national identity weave a political agency towards the necessity of reconstructing the symbolic order and its material effect. Perhaps it is time our imagined communities should become a community our hearts and desires could call our own.


References

Achugar, Hugo. “La escritura de la historia o a proposito de las fundaciones de la nación”.  In: Cadernos do Centro de Pesquisa Literárias da PUCRS. Porto Alegre, vol.6, no.1, August 2000.  

Alvim, Clara. “Os discursos sobre o negro no século XIX: desvios da enunciação machadiana”, Papéis avulsos 19, CIEC, Rio de Janeiro, 1089.

Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at large: cultural dimensions of globalization. (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1998).

Bhabha, Homi. The location of culture. (London: Routledge, 1994).

Buarque de Holanda, Sérgio. Raízes do Brasil. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1995.

Ellis, Markman. The politics of sensibility: race, gender and commerce in the sentimental novel. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Hobsbawm, Eric. Nations and nationalisms since 1780: programme, myth, reality. (England: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

Rama, Angel. A cidade das letras. São Paulo: Boitempo Editorial, 26th. edition, 2015. 

Moers, Ellen. Literary women. (London: The Women’s Press, 1978).

Ramos, Julio. Desencuentros de la modernidad en America Latina: literatura y política en en siglo XIX. (Mexico: FCE, 1989).

Renan, Ernest. “What is a nation? ” In:  Nation and narration. Homi Bhabha, ed. (London: Routledge, 1990).

Said, Edward. Representing the colonized. Critical Inquiry, vol. 15, no. 2, (winter) 1989). 

Sommer, Doris. Foundational fictions: the national romances of Latin America. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

Spivacks, Gayatri. “Subaltern studies: deconstructing historiography” in:  In other worlds: essays in cultural politics. (New York: Routledge, 1988)



* Full Professor of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

1 Phrase conceived by Benedict Anderson in Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. (London: Verso, 1983).

Among the scholars who have dwelt on this subject include Homi Bhabha, Paul Gillis, Garcia Canclini, Ernest Gellner, Benedict Anderson, Doris Sommer, Mary Louise Pratt, Aijaz Ahmad and Eric Hobsbawn.

3 I refer to the work of Doris Sommer in her Foundational fictions: the national romances of Latin America. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

4 Nations and nationalisms since 1780: programme, myth, reality. (England: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p.182. Another important scholar who  has elaborated on the post-national world is Arjun Appadurai in his Modernity at large: cultural dimensions of globalization. (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1998).

5 In: “Representing the colonized”, Critical Inquiry, vol. 15, no. 2, (winter) 1989), p. 225.

6 See Julio Ramos in his Desencuentros de la modernidad en America Latina: literatura y política en en siglo XIX. (Mexico: FCE, 1989).

7 In: “La escritura de la historia o a proposito de las fundaciones de la nación”.  In: Cadernos do Centro de Pesquisa Literárias da PUCRS. Porto Alegre, vol.6, no.1, August 2000.  

8 São Paulo: Boitempo Editorial, 26th. edition, 2015.

9 São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1995. Sérgio Buarque de Holanda was a major Brazilian historian, journalist and literary critic and his book has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Japanese, German and French languages.

10 I’m referring here to Gayatri Spivacks notions about subalternity and historiography developed in the essay “Subaltern studies: deconstructing historiography” in:  In other worlds: essays in cultural politics. (New York: Routledge, 1988).

11 The politics of sensibility: race, gender and commerce in the sentimental novel. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1996).

12 It is necessary to point out that the black element was never considered as figure that could represent an identity defined as brazilianess because of its genealogy, both genetic and historical. The aboriginal element, during the romantic period was extolled as representative of a Brazilian identity in major canonical novels of the time. This identity was taken over later on in the XIX century by the ideal of assimilation through a bleaching process, and it became the dogma of the liberal white elite whose project was to give coherence to a cultural identity that would project the image of an integrative homogeneity. In this regard, see the article by Clara Alvim “Os discursos sobre o negro no século XIX: desvios da enunciação machadiana” (he discourses about the blackness in XIX century). Papéis avulsos 19, CIEC, Rio de Janeiro, 1089.

13 Ernest Renan in a famous essay entitled “What is a nation? ” claims that forgetfulness and ‘historical error’ are essential factors in the forging of a nation and that is why studies of history offer a danger for the formation of nationalities. In:  Nation and narration. Homi Bhabha, ed.  (London: Routledge, 1990), pp.8-22.

14 According to Ellen Moers Literary women. (London: The Women’s Press, 1978), p.100.

15 In: The location of culture. (London: Routledge, 1994), p.148.





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