Nationalism and the Emergence of the Short Story
The nineteenth century saw the continent-wide press toward nationalism. In many ways this pattern would not take root in Brazil in the same way because Brazil’s position as the seat of the Portuguese empire was largely unassailable from the onset. In fact, much of the literature that has emerged in Brazil, while being rooted in the landscape and culture of the region, has so shaped and defined Portuguese letters that there is far less of a sense of inferiority and acquiescence to the metropolis or the mother country than has occurred in the literatures from the former English colonies and the Spanish colonial countries. The emergence of nationalism in the nineteenth century, however, played a major part in the shaping of a literary aesthetic. This aesthetic, influenced by the push for nationalism in such places as the United States, Haiti, and the march for revolution in France, generated, at first, works that sought to locate a literary tradition in the region. This attempt was not unlike the nineteenth century preoccupation with origins that characterized literary practice in Europe. In England, there was the championing of the Anglo-Saxon mythic narrative Beowulf (c. 1000), while in Germany numerous renderings of Nibelungenlied (c. 1200; The Nibelungenlied, 1848) served as foundation blocks for a nationalist aesthetic. In Chile, Diego Barros Arana produced a seminal edition of the epic poem by Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Purén Indómito (1862), which would compete with the Argentine Juan María Gutiérrez’s 1848 edition of Pedro de Oña’s epic Arauco domado (Aracuo Tamed, 1948), which appeared in 1596.
It was also during this period that the first distinctive collections of short stories began to appear in Latin America. While some critics remain adamant that the “cuadros de costumbres” were in fact not quite short stories but narratives, which functioned as anecdotal tales with little of the structural unities normally associated with the short story as it emerged in the latter part of the nineteenth century. These narratives undeniably influenced the short-story movement that assumed full force at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The earlier part of the nineteenth century saw many examples of the long narrative. The novel was thriving,...
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