Machado de Assis: A Literary Life

Posted in Biography, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2015-12-22 04:13Z by Steven

Machado de Assis: A Literary Life

Yale University Press
2015-05-26
360 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
2 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300180824

K. David Jackson, Professor of Portuguese and Director of Undergraduate Studies of Portuguese
Yale University

Novelist, poet, playwright, and short story writer Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839–1908) is widely regarded as Brazil’s greatest writer, although his work is still too little read outside his native country. In this first comprehensive English-language examination of Machado since Helen Caldwell’s seminal 1970 study, K. David Jackson reveals Machado de Assis as an important world author, one of the inventors of literary modernism whose writings profoundly influenced some of the most celebrated authors of the twentieth century, including José Saramago, Carlos Fuentes, and Donald Barthelme. Jackson introduces a hitherto unknown Machado de Assis to readers, illuminating the remarkable life, work, and legacy of the genius whom Susan Sontag called “the greatest writer ever produced in Latin America” and whom Allen Ginsberg hailed as “another Kafka.” Philip Roth has said of him that “like Beckett, he is ironic about suffering.” And Harold Bloom has remarked of Machado that “he’s funny as hell.”

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Machado de Assis: The Brazilian Master and His Novels

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2015-01-13 20:34Z by Steven

Machado de Assis: The Brazilian Master and His Novels

University of California Press
1970
270 pages
ISBN: 9780520016088

Helen Caldwell

Machado de Assis is among the most original creative minds in Brazils rich, four-century-long literary tradition. Miss Caldwell’s critical and biographical study explores Machado’s purpose, meaning, and artistic method in each of his nine novels, published between 1872 and 1908. She traces the ideas and recurrent themes, and identifies his affinities with other authors.

In tracing Machado’s experimentation with narrative techniques, Miss Caldwell reveals the increasingly subtle use he made of point of view, sometimes indirect or reflected, sometimes multiple and “nested” like Chinese boxes.

Miss Caldwell shows the increasing sureness with which he individualized his characters, and how. in advance of his time, he developed action, not by realistic detail, but by the boldest use of allusion and symbol. Each novel is shown to be an artistic venture, and not in any sense a regurgitation from a sick soul as some critics have argued.

In searching out the unity of his novels. Miss Caldwell explores the other aspects of Machado’s intellectual life—as poet, journalist, playwright, conversationalist, and academician. Of particular interest is her attention to his shift away from the social criticism of his early novels into the labyrinth of individual psychology in the last five—all of which rank among world literature. But this perceptive account never loses sight of the one element present in every piece of Machado’s fiction, in every one of his personages; that is, superlative comedy, in its whole range: wit, irony, satire, parody, burlesque, humor.

Altogether, Miss Caldwell reveals to us a writer, in essence a poet, who is still the altus prosator of Brazilian letters.

Read the entire book here or here.

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Machado de Assis: Multiracial Identity and the Brazilian Novelist by G. Reginald Daniel (review)

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2014-01-15 08:15Z by Steven

Machado de Assis: Multiracial Identity and the Brazilian Novelist by G. Reginald Daniel (review)

Hispanic Review
Volume 82, Number 1, Winter 2014
pages 116-119
DOI: 10.1353/hir.2014.0008

Mércia Santana Flannery, Lecturer of Portuguese
Romance Languages Department
University of Pennsylvania

G. Reginald Daniel, Machado de Assis: Multiracial Identity and the Brazilian Novelist, 336 pages, hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-05246-5. (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012).

In Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, the sociologist Erving Goffman (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963) discusses the relationship between individuals who possess a social stigma and the “normals” (8). Reginald Daniel’s new book, Machado de Assis: Multiracial Identity and the Brazilian Novelist, discusses the stigmatized identity of the most celebrated Brazilian novelist as perceived in his literary work. Machado’s biography is traced, his work commented on, and we are offered a picture of the Brazilian mulatto writer as a way to understand the inclusion, or lack thereof, of race relations and black identification in his writings.

Having written extensively about Brazil’s racial relations and about Machado, Daniel is delving into known territory, being more than well qualified to take on the subject. In the introduction, the author comments on the importance of Machado’s legacy to the Brazilian literary canon, and on this famous author’s “betrayal” and his “racial self-negation” (1). From here on, the assumption seems to be that a mulatto writer should be expected to make his race a topic of his literary writings, but we miss the advancement of this line of thought.

In the first chapter, Daniel includes a panoramic consideration of Brazil’s racial configuration. A recapitulation of the country’s racial makeup and the role of miscegenation as an explanation for who Brazilians are as a people is also incorporated. Daniel discusses the Brazilian preference for the white-European phenotype, along with the stigmatization of African ancestry, which foregrounds the ensuing analysis of Machado’s relationship with his own racial ambiguity.

This chapter supplies an interesting account of Brazil, and particularly Rio de Janeiro, during the nineteenth century, the time when Machado wrote and that he used to contextualize most of his novels and short stories. Daniel stresses Brazil’s looking to the outside, especially to Europe (France and England in particular) as a way for the elites to “reckon with the embarrassing gulf between themselves and the masses” (26). Machado is guilty of the same, having chiseled out his characters mostly from European models.

In chapter two, Daniel reflects on the “absence” of literary voices of African ancestry in Brazil. He explains this situation through a description of the African Brazilian condition, which worked to “neutralize” those who could have worked as “mouthpieces in the African Brazilian struggle” (35). According to Daniel, this was a result of how European Brazilians thought about blackness. Considering that blackness in Brazil was so “irreconcilable with social advancement,” those who moved upwards could only be perceived as “whitened” (35). The chapter includes a brief account of other Brazilian mulatto writers and the degree to which they included the African Brazilian tradition in their work. For example, Caldas Barbosa used the African Brazilian vernacular in his modinhas and lundus, whereas Lima Barreto “openly discussed the topic of racism from an African Brazilian point of view” (58).

In chapter three, Daniel offers a biographical account of Machado’s life, including his modest origins in Livramento (born to a Portuguese immigrant mother, a washerwoman and seamstress, and a mulatto house painter), until his death as an acclaimed writer in Laranjeiras. Machado’s transition, the accomplishment of his hard-fought upward mobility, with scant formal education, as he was mostly self-taught, is a reason for praise and part of what is used to compose his portrait as a genius. However, as Daniel indicates, Machado was also condemned for his refusal to discuss racial themes in his works, or, as demonstrated by José do Patrocínio’s accusation, for having “hated his race” (67).

What is unclear is how we are meant to believe that Machado was a detractor, in view of what was said thus far in the book about Brazil’s racial relations. Was Machado acting as the majority of Brazilians did—and do—as far as race is concerned? Do we expect more of him because of his notoriety? In addition, Daniel notes, citing other scholars, that “Machado disguised his mulatto facial features by wearing a thick moustache and a beard and that he also wore his hair closely cropped in his late years to enhance this camouflage…

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Whiter Shades of Pale: “Coloring In” Machado de Assis and Race in Contemporary Brazil

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2014-01-02 03:53Z by Steven

Whiter Shades of Pale: “Coloring In” Machado de Assis and Race in Contemporary Brazil

Latin American Research Review
Volume 48, Number 3 (2013)
pages 3-24
DOI: 10.1353/lar.2013.0046

Alex Flynn, Lecturer in Anthropology
Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom

Elena Calvo-González, Professor of Anthropology
Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil

Marcelo Mendes de Souza
Department of Comparative Literature
University of Auckland

Debates surrounding race in Brazil have become increasingly fraught in recent years as the once hegemonic concept of racial democracy (democracia racial) continues to be subject to an ever more agnostic scrutiny. Parallel to these debates, and yet ultimately inseparable from them, is the question of what it is to be “white.” In this interdisciplinary paper, we argue that whiteness has become increasingly established in Brazilian public discourse as a naturalized category. Seeking a fresh perspective on what we perceive to have become a sterile debate, we examine Machado de Assis and his work to illustrate how assumptions surrounding his short story “Pai contra mãe,” and indeed comments on the author’s very body, reveal the extent to which whiteness has come to be seen as nonnegotiable and fixed. Placing a close reading of Machado’s text at the heart of the article, we explain its implications for the scholarly debates now unfolding in Brazil concerning the construction of whiteness. The article then develops an anthropological reading of whiteness by pointing to the inherent differences between perspectives of race as a process and perspectives of race as a fixed and naturalized given.

Debates surrounding race in Brazil have become increasingly fraught in recent years as the once hegemonic concept of racial democracy (democracia racial) is subjected to an ever more agnostic scrutiny. In a public sphere where certain ‘“types of mixture’ are clearly preferred to the detriment of others” (Pinho 2009), what can be understood as whiteness has an obvious and tangible importance, with various signifiers having varying levels of meaning. The texture of hair, the shape of facial features, even certain embodied notions of interaction can connote discrete positions on a racialized hierarchy. As Pinho (2009, 40) states, following the tradition of 1950s anthropologists such as Oracy Nogueira (1998) or Donald Pierson (1971), skin color is perhaps only the beginning of someone’s subjective judgment: “One’s ‘measure of whiteness,’ therefore, is not defined only by skin color; it requires a much wider economy of signs where, together with other bodily features, hair texture is almost as important as epidermal tone. In any given context, the definition of whiteness is also, necessarily, shaped by the contours of gender and class affiliation.”

These judgments take place within a wider historical discourse that has promoted the “whitening” of Brazil as a country and race. Dávila (2003) describes how from the turn of the nineteenth century, state actors in Brazil implemented policies that had at their heart a belief in whiteness as a naturalized state identified with strength, health, and virtue. This racial category was gradually shaped in opposition to “blackness,” a status that carried an explicit cargo of laziness, primitive and childlike nature, and an inherently antimodern gaze to the past. Dávila outlines how state actors believed that the nation could be “whitened” by educating people out of a black identity and leading them toward a white set of behaviors and morals. In this way, race was not a biological fact, it was rather a metaphor for the imagining of Brazil’s modernist trajectory; race was a malleable tool with which to better the future. Thus, the racial mixing of Brazilian society was a deterministic process toward securing a brighter, “whiter” future, one where blackness and its degeneracy could be cast aside and social ascension would guarantee a more productive population. Dávila (2003, 6) states that in the 1930s, “white Brazilians could safely celebrate race mixture because they saw it as an inevitable step in the nation’s evolution.” But it is important to note here that the supposedly realizable goal at the end of this process was essentially being cast as a naturalized category. There were no searching questions as to exactly what whiteness represented on this hierarchical trajectory; the definition was based upon a certain Europeanness and was whatever blackness or  indigenousness was not. As Dávila (2003, 7) states, “whiteness” was defined through both “positive and negative affirmation,” becoming a sedimented and fixed category without any internalized processes of self-reflection.

Despite this historical lack of analysis, recent state interventions have prompted a more quotidian interest into questions of whiteness in Brazil. Carlos Hasenbalg and Nelson do Vale Silva’s groundbreaking research in the 1970s had already demonstrated the disparities linked to race in socioeconomic indicators between self=-classified “whites” and “browns/blacks,” with the latter grouped together due to the similarity of results when compared to the “white” group. Such work helped to destabilize the myth of racial democracy, as well as the “mulatto escape hatch” thesis, the idea that the space ceded to people of mixed race in Brazil allowed some to escape the “disabilities of blackness” (Degler 1971, 178). However, the recent introduction of racial quotas at federal and state universities has brought into sharp relief how binary manners of self-identification can have a profound influence on one’s social trajectory, or as Vron Ware (2004, 38) describes it, “the relationship between social and symbolic power.” With an expanding middle class and growing competition for places, university places reserved for those who do not identify as white has brought into the open questions and prejudices that many people might have perhaps preferred to remain opaque. The debates around the implementation of affirmative action policies have brought into sharp focus the serious issues that a bureaucratic reconfiguration of racial categories implies, given that the category “black” subsumed those that self-declared as mixed race. At the center of these debates is the question of what it is to be black and, discussed much less, what it is to be white, a subject that has acquired all the more significance with the recent publication of census data demonstrating that for the first time since records began, those that self-identify as white are in a minority (47.7 percent) in Brazil (Phillips 2011). In this article we will build upon recent literature on whiteness as well as more classical work on race and race relations to reinforce the idea that, rather than being a fixed category, whiteness is in fact a volatile and nuanced construction continually subject to social reinterpretations as well as state-determined reconfiguration…

Read the entire article here.

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Machado viewed the challenge of achieving upward mobility and public success without also compromising his personal integrity as merely one of the myriad epiphenomena of universal duality and ambiguity.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-07-17 03:17Z by Steven

Notwithstanding the long-held belief that Machado sought to at best to camouflage and at worst deny being a mulatto, I contend that his primary motivation was to achieve a sense of racelessness. He endeavored to go beyond the physical limitations of being a mulatto to become a “meta-mulatto,” that is, a mulatto whose writing grappled with the universal questions of duality and ambiguity in all human existence—miscegenation in a higher sense. He displayed what has been termed “mestizo consciousness,” “radical mestizaje,” and “critical hybridity” (Anzaldúa 1987, 77; Ramirez 1983, 6; Sandoval 2000, 72; Daniel 2005, 264; Lund 2006, 55) by affirming a mulatto identity grounded in a more inclusive or universal self, beyond questions of racial, cultural, or any other specificity.  As a multiracial individual of African and European descent in a society that prized whiteness and stigmatized blackness, Machado viewed the challenge of achieving upward mobility and public success without also compromising his personal integrity as merely one of the myriad epiphenomena of universal duality and ambiguity.

G. Reginald Daniel, Machado de Assis: Multiracial Identity and the Brazilian Novelist, (University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012): 120-121.

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Machado de Assis: Multiracial Identity and the Brazilian Novelist

Posted in Biography, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, Social Science on 2013-01-31 02:18Z by Steven

Machado de Assis: Multiracial Identity and the Brazilian Novelist

Penn State University Press
2012-05-19
336 pages
6 x 9, 1 illustration
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-05246-5

G. Reginald Daniel, Professor of Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839–1908) was Brazil’s foremost novelist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a mulatto, Machado experienced the ambiguity of racial identity throughout his life. Literary critics first interpreted Machado as an embittered misanthrope uninterested in the plight of his fellow African Brazilians. By midcentury, however, a new generation of critics asserted that Machado’s writings did reveal his interest in slavery, race, and other contemporary social issues, but their interpretations went too far in the other direction. Reginald Daniel, whose expertise on Brazilian race relations gives him special insights, takes a fresh look at how Machado’s life—especially his experience of his own racial identity—was inflected in his writings. The result is a new interpretation that sees Machado as endeavoring to transcend his racial origins by universalizing the experience of racial ambiguity and duality into a fundamental mode of human existence.

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Three Sad Races: Racial Identity and National Consciousness in Brazilian Literature

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2011-12-16 01:46Z by Steven

Three Sad Races: Racial Identity and National Consciousness in Brazilian Literature

Cambridge University Press
1983
210 pages
216 x 140 mm
Paperback ISBN: 9780521155342

David T. Haberly, Professor of Portuguese
University of Virginia

An innovative interpretation of the development of Brazilian literature from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. Originally published in 1983, Three Sad Races is a study of how Brazilian literature deals with the nation’s racial diversity themes and gives vent to the general disquietude concerning this.

Table of Contents

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Machado de Assis, the Brazilian Pyrrhonian

Posted in Biography, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Philosophy on 2011-12-14 02:05Z by Steven

Machado de Assis, the Brazilian Pyrrhonian

Purdue University Press
1994-06-01
248 pages
6 x 9
Hardback ISBN 10: 1557530513; ISBN 13: 9781557530516
eBook ISBN 10: 1612490948; ISBN 13: 9781612490946

José Raimundo Maia Neto, Professor of the Philosophy
Federal University of Minas Gerais

Machado de Assis, the Brazilian Pyrrhonian examines the towering figure of nineteenth century Latin American letters from a fresh perspective. Machado is a writer of philosophical fiction. His subtle criticism of cherished institutions is evident to all readers, and his skepticism (sometimes confused with pessimism) has often been mentioned by critics. Not until Maia Neto’s study, however, has Machado’s philosophical position been seriously examined by a philosopher.

Maia Neto traces Machado’s particular brand of skepticism to that of the ancient philosopher, Pyrrho of Elis, and reveals the sources through which he inherited that line of thought. The author then shows how Machado’s own philosophic development (as seen primarily through his fiction) follows the stages proposed by Pyrrho for the development of a skeptical world-view: flight from hypocritical society in favor of domestic quietude, investigation of manipulative social interactions, suspension of judgment, and mental tranquility.

Impressive for both the breadth and the depth of its reading, the study pays particular attention to the Brazilian master’s short stories and novels, pointing out how characters during different phases of the author’s career tend to portray the stages in the development of a skeptical philosophy.

For those who study literature, Maia Neto’s book will provide a foundation for understanding the thought of one of the most important writers of the Americas. For philosophers, the book will reveal a fascinating modern world-view, thoroughly rooted in the traditions of ancient skepticism.

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CLS 413: Comparative Studies in Theme: Generation, Degeneration, Miscegenation

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Course Offerings, Gay & Lesbian, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, United States on 2011-11-18 04:15Z by Steven

CLS 413: Comparative Studies in Theme: Generation, Degeneration, Miscegenation

Northwestern University
Winter 2012

César Braga-Pinto, Associate Professor of Brazilian Studies

In this seminar we will discuss how and why late 19th-century and early 20th-century fiction often represented a crisis in models of biological reproduction. We will investigate how anxieties regarding miscegenation and degeneration impacted this three-part pattern:

(1) the “family romance” in Latin America (and elsewhere); (2) the  so-called generative crisis in the turn of the century; (3) the homosocial, “horizontal” forms of association or affiliation that were evoked to compensate the crisis in the generative model. We will also consider the meanings of the term “generation” as a form of “affiliation” in multi-racial societies such as Brazil.

Although we will focus primarily on Brazilian fiction, the approach will be comparative (hemispheric and/or transatlantic), and final papers may focus on U.S., Latin American, European, African or other post-colonial literatures (primarily from the period 1850’s-1930’s).

Class Materials:

ALL WORKS ARE AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION.

Secondary sources may include works by Doris Sommer, Edward Said, Franz Fanon, Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Roberto Schwarz, Silviano Santiago and Jacques Derrida.

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Classes You May Have Missed: On Modern Brazilian Literature

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2010-09-07 21:50Z by Steven

Classes You May Have Missed: On Modern Brazilian Literature

Pitt Magazine
January, 1995

Bobby J. Chamberlain, Associate Professor of Brazilian Culture and Literature
University of Pittsburgh

Brazilian culture has always been considered a fusion of three different races: the Europeans (specifically Portuguese), the Indians, and the Africans who were taken to Brazil as slaves. But it is wrong to see this culture as some kind of happy hybridization: There is always a hierarchy in this type of fusion. A much larger percentage of whites, descendants of the Europeans, are in the upper classes, and the great majority of blacks and mulattos, those of mixed race, are in the lower classes. Brazilian literature itself began, as did Spanish-American literature, as a specifically European phenomenon in the New World, with a certain inferiority complex that Brazilians, even those of European descent, were not as good as the Europeans in Europe. I’d like to discuss how several writers dealt with the problem of adapting influences from Europe and the United States to a Brazilian literature.

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, who wrote at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of this one, is often considered the greatest figure in Brazilian literature. He was a mulatto who rose from the lower classes to become the first president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. The narrators of his novels, middle-class Brazilians, often distort what they tell you to serve their own ends. You start off believing them, but their interpretations of social signs and gestures become strained and paranoid. For instance, in Dom Casmurro (1900), Bento Santiago tells of his childhood with Capitu, whom he later marries and then spurns, accusing her of adultery. From the beginning, he portrays her as a crafty manipulator and himself as her victim, but the evidence of her adultery is flimsy, and Santiago’s coldness to her seems to spring solely from his own neurosis and cruelty…

Read the entire article here.

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