The following entry discusses Brazilian literature, both colonial and national, as it reflects the vast variety of ethnic backgrounds present in that nation, developing in tandem with other Latin-American literatures to produce a body of work that reflects the diversity of its origins.
Deeply concerned with the development of a Brazilian national identity and culture, Brazilian literature can be divided into two major periods: colonial and national. Comprised of native Indians, white European settlers, and a large black population, mostly brought to Brazil as slave labor, Brazil provides a varied cultural background for its indigenous literature, which often reflects the ethnic background of its writers. Colonized by Portugal in the mid-1500s, the country adopted Portuguese as the language of common discourse, and most colonial literature was composed in this language. Today, Brazilians continue to write in Portuguese, and their works reflect a concern with contemporary Brazilian society, as well as a deep sense of Brazilian history and culture.
Brazilian colonial literature largely focused on historical and geographical issues, often telling stories of the Portuguese conquest, the wars fought by various native peoples, and the explorations of the Brazilian interior in epic narratives. In addition to narratives of war and explorations, many Jesuit missionaries also contributed to the body of Brazilian writing. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the city of Bahia formed the epicenter of Brazilian culture and literature, followed by a shift to Minas Gerais, a mining town. Literary activities of the period continued to center around epic stories narrating events such as the war with Spain and other Portuguese conquests. Although colonial subjects continued to be a significant part of Brazilian literary activity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was simultaneous development of writing that was concerned with more nationalistic subjects. In the late-nineteenth century, with the advent of such authors as Jorge de Lima, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, and Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, Brazilian literature shifted focus, becoming more concerned with local and nationalist themes. Other novelists and writers, such as José de Alencar, continued this trend, exploring native Indian themes in works such as O Guarani (1857; The Guarani Indian). With the works of novelist Mario de Andrade, Brazilian literature moved from the realm of Romanticism and Naturalism, with its focus on social and realistic themes, to experiments in language and folklore. Andrade's only novel, Macunaíma: o Herói sem nenhum caráter (1928) is often cited as a major example of linguistic experimental literature. In the twentieth century, authors such as Jorge Amado and Clarice Lispector, as well as a variety of others, continued the focus on Brazilian history and culture in their works.
One of the most enduring themes of Brazilian literature, and most other Latin American writing as well, has been the issue of national identity. Like many other South American nations, Brazil's colonization and resulting oppression and inequities have had a deep impact on Brazilian writing. After gaining independence from Portugal in the early 1820s, Brazil was governed by some form of monarchy until the 1930s, when a Brazilian republic was established under the leadership of Getulio Vargas. A military coup occurred in the 1960s, followed by almost two decades of an oppressive military regime. Finally, in 1990, Brazil held its first democratic elections. In his book Misplaced Ideas: Essays on Brazilian Culture, Brazilian critic and scholar Roberto Schwarz traces in detail the impact of the political and social scene in Brazil on its writers and artists. In particular, Schwarz notes that while Brazilian writers were adept at emulating European styles of writing, especially the realist and naturalist novel forms, the conflict they faced in portraying the reality of Brazil in the genteel structure of a realistic novel was felt deeply by such authors as Alencar during the late 1800s.
The next major change in the Brazilian literary scene occurred in the 1930s, following the Brazilian Revolution of 1930. Once again, scholars have pointed out the close link between the literature of Brazil and the political climate of the nation. Conflict between the country's colonial and European past and the emerging sense of nationalism, the struggle between modernism and technology versus the traditionally powerful sectors of the country, and the imbalance of power between society and state, all affected the literature produced during this time. These years also marked the beginning of the modernist movement in Brazil. Modernist writing in Brazil is characterized by a break from traditional forms of writing, and is reflective of the struggle between the cosmopolitanism of pre-revolutionary Brazil and the culturally and nationally conscious Brazil following the revolution. This tension is reflected in the works of such authors as Carlos Drummond de Andrade. The modernist movement was given even further impetus by President Vargas's call to Brazilian intellectuals to integrate and address issues of everyday reality in their works and thus participate actively in the act of nation-building. However, by the mid-1940s, Brazilian modernism was being slowly replaced by a new generation of poets and writers.
Known for their innovative poetry and prose, writers such as Amado, Lispector, de Lima, and de Melo Neto have brought new perspectives to Brazilian literature. Influenced by experimental techniques in the works of many French and American novelists, Brazilian writers have continued to merge a distinctly Latin American point of view with issues that have universal appeal. The twentieth century also saw a surge in publishing activity by women and black authors in Brazil, many of whom had little opportunity to showcase their works before that time. The language in these works, notes critic Leda Maria Martins, is reflective of the self-recognition and apprehension many of these writers feel as they articulate a feminine perspective on life in Brazilian society. Similarly, old paradigms of slavery and oppression are being replaced with a new sense of multicultural identity in the writings of Afro-Brazilian authors. In her essay discussing the role of black authors in Brazilian literature, Cristina Sáenz de Tejada notes that the negative image surrounding blacks and women until very recently means that little information is available on the history of their writing in both anthologies and critical and scholarly studies. Even during the early twentieth century, when writers such as Amado began presenting positive images of blacks in their writing, black characters were highly stereotypical. Not until the 1980s, with the publication of the works of such authors as Sônia Coutinho and others, did Brazilian literature begin portraying blacks as an integral, vital, and positive part of society.
José de Alencar
O Guarani [The Guariani Indian] (novel) 1857
Diva (novel) 1864
Iracema (novel) 1865
A pata da gazela [The Gazelle's Foot] (novel) 1870
O tronco do ipê [The Ipê Trunk] (novel) 1871
Sonhos d'Ouro (novel) 1872
Til (novel) 1872
Senhora [A Lady] (novel) 1875
Momentos de Busca (poetry) 1983
Estrelas no dedo (poetry) 1985
Gabriela, crave a canela [Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon] (novel) 1958
A Morte e a Morte de Quincas Berro D'Agua [The Two Deaths of Qunicas Wateryell] (novella) 1959
Os pastores da noite [Shepherds of the Night] (novel) 1964
Dona Flor e seus dois maridos [Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands] (novel) 1966
O Gato Malhado e a Andorinha Sinhá [The Swallow and the Tom Cat: A Love Story] (fable) 1972
Tereza Batista cansada de guerra (novel) 1972
Mário de Andrade
A Escrava que nāo é Isaura (essay) 1925
Macunaíma: o Herói sem nenhum caráter (novel) 1928
Lira Paulistana (poetry) 1946
Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
Resurreicao (novel) 1872
Iaia Garcia (novel) 1878
Quincas Borba (novel) 1891
O Jogo de Ifá [Ifa's...
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Criticism: Overviews And General Studies
SOURCE: Schwarz, Roberto. “The Importing of the Novel to Brazil and Its Contradictions in the Work of Alencar.” In Misplaced Ideas: Essays on Brazilian Culture, edited by John Gledson, pp. 41-77. London: Verso, 1992.
[In the following essay, Schwarz discusses the rise of the novel in Brazil, focusing particularly on the works of José de Alencar.]
The novel had existed in Brazil before there were any Brazilian novelists.1 So when they appeared, it was natural that they should follow the European models, both good and bad, which had already become entrenched in our reading habits. An obvious statement, perhaps, but one which has many implications: our imagination had become focused on an artistic form whose presuppositions, in the main, either did not apply to Brazil at all, or applied in altered circumstances. Which was at fault: the form—the most prestigious of the period—or the country? One example of this ambivalence, which occurs particularly in peripheral nations, was provided at the time by the American Henry James, whose interest in the imaginative possibilities of England's social structure led to his emigration there.2 Let us look at the matter more closely. To adopt the novel was to accept the way in which it dealt with ideologies. It has already been noted [in ‘Misplaced Ideas’] that these became displaced in the context of Brazilian life, although they...
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SOURCE: Johnson, Randal. “The Dynamics of the Brazilian Literary Field, 1930-1945.”1Luso-Brazilian Review 31, no. 2 (winter 1994): 5-22.
[In the following essay, Johnson draws parallels between the political conditions and the changing literary scene in Brazil during the 1930s and 1940s, noting that Brazilian writing of that period maps the relationships between control and influence in Brazilian society.]
Nos anos 1930 e 1940 o campo literário brasileiro passou por uma profunda reestruturação. Durante esse período, o modernismo canonizou-se e institucionalizou-se, novas gerações de escritores surgiram e a divisão do trabalho in-telectual tornou-se mais diversificada e mais especializada. Por volta de 1945, a dinâmica desse campo, baseada nas mudanças estruturais de autoridade literária, tinha mudado de forma irreversível. Ao examinar os componentes deci-sivos da transformação desse campo literário, este estudo tem o objetivo de mapear as relações sutis e complexas entre a literatura e os diferentes níveis de autoridade e poder na sociedade brasileira. A primeira parte fornece um pano de fundo e um enquadramento dos pressupostos teóricos do estudo. A segunda enfoca quatro componentes mutáveis do campo literário: as relações entre os intelectuais modernistas e o Estado; a expansão da indústria editorial; a luta pela definição legítima do...
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Criticism: Brazilian Poetry
SOURCE: Nunes, Cassiano. “The Characteristics of Modern Poetry in Brazil.” Comparative Literature Studies 5, no. 1 (March 1968): 21-39.
[In the following essay, Nunes describes the growth of modern poetry in Brazil, focusing on the works of such authors as Murilo de Arajújo, Raul Bopp, Cassiano Ricardo, and Mário de Andrade.]
A complete understanding of the phenomenon of Brazilian Modernism is possible only by examining it on three planes; universal, continental, and national. Brazilian Modernism is, in this first plane of universality, a result of the circumstance of Time, even as it lives as a national artistic movement with repercussions in all facets of life. Artists immediately interpreted the new perspective of the world, of life, representing the many social, philosophical, and scientific facts which were the essence of Western Modernism. “Cherchez la femme” recommends a character of Dumas the Younger to Sherlock deciphering a crime. By analogy, we suggest to those looking for an explanation to the complexity of modern art that the reason is removed from the territory of art and lies in areas that seem distant and alien to artists' dreams. There is a clear difference between our way of life in which the media of telephone, radio, television, movies, car and plane impose themselves, and the scent of the tranquil past unfolding to a slow rhythm. In the affirmation of this difference may be...
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SOURCE: Curran, Mark J. “Brazil's Literatura de Cordel: Its Distribution and Adaptation to the Brazilian Mass Market.” Studies in Latin American Popular Culture 1 (1982): 164-78.
[In the following essay, Curran expounds on the literature de cordel, a popular form of narrative poetry written by Brazilian poets of the Northeast, and the means by which it is marketed to the Brazilian public.]
The literatura de cordel [popular literature in verse] is that body of narrative poetry with folk-popular characteristics which is written by literate or semi-literate poets principally from Brazil's Northeast.1 Although popular poetry—that is, written with signed authorship—it has intrinsically folk characteristics: it is persistent and long lasting; its most famous stories are known by title rather than by author to its public; it is closely linked to the oral poetic tradition; and many of its public hear the poetry rather than read it. Its themes range from the traditional—that is, fairy tales of princes and princesses, fables, religious and moral exempla [examples] and the like—to the circumstantial or current events. Cases in point are poems with titles like História da princesa Eliza [Story of the princess Eliza], A princesa Rosamunda ou a morte do gigante [Princess Rosamunde or the death of the giant], O boi misterioso [The mysterious bull],...
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Criticism: Contemporary Brazilian Writing
SOURCE: Vieira, Nelson H. “Myth and Identity in Short Stories by Jorge Amado.” Studies in Short Fiction 23, no. 1 (winter 1986): 25-34.
[In the following essay, Vieira comments on the short narratives by Jorge Amado.]
Overshadowed by the success of such bawdy, sweeping, lyrical, and socially-minded novels as Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon (1958), Shepherds of the Night (1964), Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1966), and Tereza Batista Home from the Wars (1972), Jorge Amado's short fiction has understandably received little attention from readers and critics. Except for the highly acclaimed short story/novella, A Morte e a Morte de Quincas Berro D'Água, 1959 (The Two Deaths of Quincas Wateryell) and the fable, O Gato Malhado e a Andorinha Sinhá (The Swallow and the Tom Cat: A Love Story) first composed in 1948 but published in 1979, there has been scant commentary on the handful of Amado's short narratives which have been sporadically appearing since 1937 in literary magazines and short story collections. Forgotten in limited editions and issues that have not received wide readership, three out of six stories have been translated into English while only one of these has appeared in German, French and Spanish translations.
Paulo Tavares in his bio-bibliographical study, O Baiano Jorge Amado e Sua Obra1 catalogues...
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SOURCE: López, Kimberle S. “Modernismo and the Ambivalence of the Postcolonial Experience: Cannibalism, Primitivism, and Exoticism in Mário de Andrade's Macunaíma.1” Luso-Brazilian Review 35, no. 1 (summer 1998): 25-38.
[In the following essay, López analyses Andrade's text as an attempt to define an inherently Brazilian language and literature.]
Este artigo analisa o texto Macunaíma (1928) de Mário de Andrade partindo da perspectiva do Primitivismo literário. A questão da formação de uma identidade literária brasileira é problemática quando se trata da utilização de conceitos europeus como o Primitivismo, o Exotismo e a Antropofagia, que tradicionalmente são empregados para manter a relação desigual entre o colonizador e o colonizado. Ao escrever Macunaíma, Mário de Andrade se apropria de elementos do discurso europeu, como o Primitivismo da Vanguarda francesa e a etnografia do alemão Theodor Koch-Grünberg. Em última análise, Macunaíma reflete o paradoxo central do Modernismo literário, o qual procura afirmar a identidade nacional, mas sem rejeitar toda influência européia. Nesse sentido, Macunaíma, como o Modernismo brasileiro em geral, manifesta a inerente ambivalência da experiência pós-colonial.
Tupi or not Tupi, that is the question.—Oswald de Andrade,...
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SOURCE: Martins, Leda Maria. “Voices of the Black Feminine Corpus in Contemporary Brazilian Literature.” In Winds of Change: The Transforming Voices of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars, edited by Adele S. Newson and Linda Strong-Leek, pp. 195-202. New York: Peter Lang, 1998.
[In the following essay, Martins chronicles attempts by black women writers in Brazil to create a language of self-definition and expression that reflects their condition, both as women and as black women.]
In the last decade the debate about women's role and figurations within the context of Brazilian literature and society has been very fruitful. A variety of essays not only give focus to women's social conditions in our society but also critically unveils the masculine gaze from which the representation of feminine characters had risen in Brazilian literature and social imagination. The debate has also focused women's literary production, though the research about Black women writers is still at its beginning.
In one of her books, Ruth Silviano Brandão argues that in the arena of Brazilian literature, woman, particularly the white woman, has been portrayed as an idealized figure, as a model either of virtue or of madness, inhabiting the scene of masculine fantasy. In these texts, which have a long tradition in Brazilian literature, the masculine imagination voices the female characters with men's...
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SOURCE: Dixon, Paul B. “Malandro Heaven: Amado's Utopian Vision.” In Jorge Amado: New Critical Essays, edited by Keith H. Brower, Earn E. Fitz, and Enrique Martínez-Vidal, pp. 57-74. New York: Routledge, 2001.
[In the following essay, Dixon analyzes the duality of Amado's utopian vision as presented in his novel Os pastores da noite.]
No discussion of Brazilian regionalism would be complete without including Jorge Amado. Few of the country's narrators, if any, have achieved a greater sense of place. Plentiful reference to the unique Afro-Brazilian realities of his native Bahia are, like dendê oil, coconut milk and malagueta pepper in a dish of vatapá, more than just incidental seasonings. To leave them out is all but unthinkable. Neither Amado himself nor his reading public seems at ease with settings other than those connected to the Bahian capital of Salvador or the cacao-growing region surrounding Ilhéus in the southern region of this state (Chamberlain, Amado 14).
However, as strong as these ties of local color may be, it should be acknowledged that Amado, like other writers of successful fiction, is no mere reproducer of geographical or ethnic information. He creates worlds that belong to the imagination as much as to reality. A strong lyrical disposition (Cândido, “Poesia”) often prompts him to choose characters and situations...
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Criticism: Culture, Politics, And Race In Brazilian Writing
SOURCE: Zilberman, Regina. “Myth and Brazilian Literature.1” In Literary Anthropology: A New Interdisciplinary Approach to People, Signs and Literature, edited by Fernando Poyatos, pp. 141-59. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1988.
[In the following essay, Zilberman examines the use of myth in Brazilian literature, noting that many narratives employing this technique have as a main theme the justification of the way society is organized.]
MYTH AND BRAZILIAN LITERARY TRADITION
Because myth is a mode of expression consolidated by verbal language, and because it is present in all human societies, it commands a position of vital importance in cultural life. It shows a marked preference for the narrative form, and although its history cannot be traced chronologically, we know that it goes back to the first, most primitive societies. Indeed, these societies could not do without it, and they transformed it into a vigorous institution, able to survive independently of the human groups from which it sprang.
Autonomous and self-sufficient by virtue of its ability to supersede the original circumstances which produced it, myth is quite simply narration, or to be more precise, it recounts the actions of imaginary human beings, following a chronological order to time, and possessing an organization which is internal to it. It is this...
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SOURCE: Vieira, Nelson H. “Outsiders and Insiders: Brazilian Jews and the Discourse of Alterity.” In The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America: New Studies on History and Literature, edited by David Sheinin and Lois Baer Barr, pp. 101-16. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1996.
[In the following essay, Vieira uses the works of Samel Rawet to demonstrate the commonality of the theme of alienation in many Brazilian-Jewish writings.]
“[T]hey were talking about Jews during that Christmas supper. … [T]here was the whole universe, the others and he, experiencing the same clichés, and the same insoluble contradiction.”
[Samuel Rawet, “Christmas Without Christ,” Diálogo, 1963]
Alienation represents the estrangement that many Latin American Jews repeatedly experience when their ethnic and religious differences are compared to the culture of the larger Catholic population. Positioned dialectically as being in contradiction to the dominant society and culture, the Jews of Latin America consciously or unconsciously develop an enlightened perception of the dominant other, as well as themselves as others, that will be referred to here as “alterity.” If alterity evokes the perception of being other or different, then it relates to identity by communicating that which is not solely the subject. In Difference and...
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SOURCE: de Tejada, Cristina Sáenz. “Blacks in Brazilian Literature: A Long Journey from Concealment to Recognition.” Hispanofila 121 (September 1997): 61-74.
[In the following essay, de Tejada traces the changing images of blacks and black culture in contemporary novels by Brazilian and Afro-Brazilian writers.]
Over the past twenty years, Afro-Brazilians have been experiencing significant changes in their country parallel to the beginning of a democratic society, and a new vision of the world that is reevaluating historically and culturally what it means to be Black. This is manifested in several cultural movements, such as “Olodum” in the city of Salvador, and through the legalization of African religions—Candomblé in the Northeast and Umbanda in São Paulo.1 On the other hand, contemporary Brazilian narrative, written by white and Afro-Brazilian authors, is engaged in the process of rewriting their literary traditions and images of Blacks in order to create a multicultural national identity. In contrast to previous ideologies that encouraged the assimilation of minorities into the dominant white mentality, the Brazilian society of the mid-seventies progressively accepts Blacks as a genuine and separate culture that has contributed to the present identity of the country. This process is what Brookshaw defines as real “mesticismo”.
This study is about how the...
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Criticism: Modernism And Postmodernism In Brazil
SOURCE: Bernd, Zilá. “The Construction and Deconstruction of Identity in Brazilian Literature.” In Latin American Identity and Constructions of Difference, edited by Amaryll Chanady, translation by Chanady, pp. 86-103. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.
[In the following essay, Bernd discusses two Brazilian epics, particularly their focus on the use of mythology and tradition in order to articulate a national literature and identity.]
Identity cannot have a different form from that of narrative, because to define oneself is, in the last analysis, to narrate.
—Paul Ricoeur, Temps et récit (317)
Although the question of identity is always intimately associated with the act of narrating, as Ricoeur claims, it becomes central to emergent and peripheral literatures (as in the Americas), whose main preoccupation frequently is to provide an explicit or implicit definition of its communities in its narrative. As Edouard Glissant pointed out in his study of the formation of national literatures, literature has two main functions:
It has a desacralizing function, one of heresy and intellectual analysis, which deconstructs the organization of a particular system, exposes its hidden mechanisms, and demystifies it. It also has a sacralizing function, which reassembles the...
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SOURCE: Nunes, Zita. “Anthropology and Race in Brazilian Modernism.” In Colonial Discourse/Postcolonial Theory, edited by Francis Barker, Peter Hulme, and Margaret Iversen, pp. 115-25. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994.
[In the following essay, Nunes contends that most Brazilian literature is deeply concerned with the definition of a national identity.]
Pouca saúde e muita saúva Os males do Brasil sao.
With fewer ants and better health Brazil will lead the world in wealth.
(Mario de Andrade, Macunaíma)1
The question, ‘What is Brazil(ian)?’, has informed much of Brazilian writing, be it political, sociological or historical. For literary critics and theorists, however, defining this identity has become, according to the critic Angel Rama, a patriotic mission, making out of literature the appropriate instrument for forging a national identity (Rama 1982, p. 13). Literature, then, is central not only to the reflection but also to the formation of a national identity. Most nationalisms base themselves on a return to a pure, homogeneous origin involving the repression of all that troubles the integrity and purity of that origin. This logic, which informed Brazil's discourse on race up to the beginning of the twentieth century and which also...
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SOURCE: Johnson, Randal. “Brazilian Modernism: An Idea Out of Place?” In Modernism and Its Margins: Reinscribing Cultural Modernity from Spain and Latin America, edited by Anthony L. Geist and José B. Monleón, pp. 186-214. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999.
[In the following essay, Johnson reviews the Brazilian modernist movement of the 1920s and 1930s as a response to European modernist movements as well as a cultural expression of postcolonial Brazil.]
We are neither Europeans nor North Americans. Lacking an original culture, nothing is foreign to us because everything is. The painful construction of ourselves develops within the rarefied dialectic of not being and being someone else.
Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes
One of the central concerns of the organizers of this volume is whether dominant theories of modernism, normally based on European or “metropolitan” experience, can account for the “peripheral” expressions of Hispanic and Latin American modernism. They cite Fredric Jameson, who suggests that the existence of colonialism “means that a significant structural segment of the economic system as a whole is now located elsewhere, beyond the metropolis, outside of the daily life and existential experience of the home country, in colonies over the water whose own life experience and life worlds … remain...
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Bacarisse, Pamela. “Fernando Pessoa: Towards an Understanding of a Key Attitude.” Luso-Brazilian Review 17, no. 1 (1980): 51-61.
Discussion of the theme of contempt in Pessoa's writing and theory.
Fitz, Earl E. “Eroticizing the Sign: Sexuality and Being in the Narrative World of Clarice Lispector.” Romance Languages Annual 9 (1997): 478-85.
Analysis of the role of sexuality in Lispector's narratives, noting that it is reflective of the author's own psychological state.
Igel, Regina. “Brazilian Jewish Women Writers at the Crossroads.” In Passion Memory Identity, edited by Marjorie Agosín, pp. 59-84. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999.
Examines issues surrounding lack of opportunities for Brazilian Jewish women writers, including a brief overview of some of their works.
Menezes, Philadelpho. “Verbal and Visual Intersemiosis in Aesthetical Experiments—The Case of Contemporary Brazilian Culture.” In Semiotics Around the World: Synthesis in Diversity, edited by Irmengard Rauch and Gerald F. Carr, pp. 295-98. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1997.
Brief overview of Brazilian contemporary art.
Nance, Kimberly A. “Blancos as Indígenas: Inverting the Indigenista Novel.”...
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