From European Modernity to Pan-American National Identity

Literary Confluences between Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire and Machado de Assis

by Greicy Pinto Bellin (Author)
©2018 Monographs X, 162 Pages
Series: Brazilian Studies, Volume 4


This book analyses the relationships between the writers Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire and Machado de Assis, showing their impact on representations of literary modernity and literary national identity in the Americas. The central argument is that Machado de Assis parodied Baudelaire by criticizing the French influence on Brazilian literature of his time, as well as emulating Poe by searching for a Pan-American identity in the representation of the urban scene, nationalism, the female figure and the world of work. Pan-Americanism emerges from both Poe’s and Machado de Assis’s critical reflections on literary national identity in non-hegemonic contexts as a way of deconstructing the idea of literary modernity.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface and Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: The Representation of the Urban Scenes in Poe and Machado: Literary Modernity as a European Simulacrum in Non-Hegemonic Context
  • Chapter 2: Nation, Literary Nationality and Literary National Identity in Machado de Assis and Edgar Allan Poe
  • Chapter 3: Female Representation in Poe, Baudelaire and Machado de Assis as a Metaphor of Cultural Liberty in Contexts of Literary Imitation
  • Chapter 4: The Brazilian Labour Market as a Simulacrum: Machado’s Emulation of Poe in ‘Father Against Mother’
  • Closing Remarks
  • Index
  • Series index

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Preface and Acknowledgements

This book is the result of ten years of continuous research and discussion about Machado de Assis’s works, which resulted in my doctoral dissertation, defended in 2015, and in my post-doctoral research, finished in 2016. Throughout this period, I always tried to focus on the confluences between Machado and writers from different parts of the world, especially the United States, a relationship which is not very well explored by Brazilian and foreign critics. Hence, this book intends to fill this gap by establishing a dialogue between Machado and two other icons of literary modernity: Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire.

The comparison seems impossible or, at least, odd, considering the established critical traditions around the three writers. By the time Machado founded the Brazilian Academy of Literature, he was considered by Sílvio Romero, one of his most famous detractors, as having nervous problems, while Poe was an alcoholic and opium addict, and Baudelaire a true reveller wandering through the streets of Paris. However, the close reading of their texts in comparison with one another will show us the extent to which Poe influenced Baudelaire, and Machado emulated Poe to parody Baudelaire and vice-versa, in a literary warfare the objective of which was to establish literary modernity in a Pan-American context. And when I say Pan-American I am referring not only to Brazil and the United States, but to all Latin American countries that were subject to literary imitation and the problems related to the search for an autonomous literary identity. Machado, as a writer who was deeply concerned about this problem, recognized the lack of identity of Brazilian literature and dedicated a great part of his career in search of this identity. The foundation of the Brazilian Academy of Literature is a proof of his concerns, which were also Poe’s, considering his almost unknown texts of literary criticism in which he reflects upon the North American literature’s dependence in relation to British models. ← vii | viii →

The discovery and subsequent reading of these texts was a surprise for a Brazilian researcher looking for confluences between Machado and North American writers, as both authors were inserted in non-hegemonic contexts at that time. This denomination is really important for the reflection developed in this book, as the United States has not always been imperialistic – at least it was not in the nineteenth century, when Britain was in the full force of its hegemony, and when Poe produced his works. Machado, therefore, saw Poe as a writer who was facing almost the same problems he encountered on his way to the establishment of a literary national identity. Poe, however, was imported to Brazil in a Baudelairian translation, which forced Machado to read Baudelaire and consequently, to parody his poetry in order to criticize the French component of Brazilian literature, as well as to start learning English to penetrate the true meaning of Poe’s texts. The distortion of French translations in the process of transatlantic importation of books to Brazil is widely commented upon by critics, as they happened not only with Poe’s texts, but also to Shakespeare’s plays and the works of other Anglophone writers whose works arrived in Brazil in the nineteenth century.

Machado, as a key intellectual figure in the literary context of his time, used both parody and emulation as strategies to establish a dialogue with French literature and bring North American literature to a cultural scene still very dependent on European models. Brazilian intellectuals are familiar with the French component of the nineteenth-century literary context of Rio de Janeiro, which was criticized by Machado and perceived as a hindrance for the establishment of a literary national identity. Machadian criticism is established through parody, which consists in an approximation to another text in order to establish the difference with it, while the emulation of Poe’s texts points to the consciousness in relation to the establishment of a literary national identity in Brazilian literature. And when I say literary national identity I am not referring to an identity that does not allow contact with other cultures, but an identity which is not based on European models, which puts Machado as a critic of the transatlantic culture that predominated throughout his time and which imported literary and cultural representations that were at odds with Brazilian life and the Brazilian literary scene, as we will see throughout this book. ← viii | ix →

My intention is to give readers a panoramic idea of Machado de Assis’s Pan-Americanism, as well as open the field for other researchers interested in developing the theme in a deeper way, considering that the quest for national identity in Machado’s works is not very well explored and, therefore, books and other contributions like this one will be welcome. This book will integrate the series entitled Brazilian Studies, edited by João Cezar de Castro Rocha, whose aim is to work with methodological perspectives on the problem of national identity in literature. I truly believe that a book about Machado de Assis is important, due to the writer’s success in other countries, especially the United States. This success is reinforced by the works of the translators, including my own, in a partnership with Glenn Cheney and Ana Lessa-Schmidt, entitled Miss Dollar: Stories by Machado de Assis, released in 2016 by New London Librarium, which aimed to bridge the gap between Machado and the context of international literature.

There are some people who I would like to thank for participating in the challenging enterprise of writing this book. Peter Lang, for its great excitement and interest in my work, as well as the availability with which it answered all my emails about the publication process. My husband Sidney Jefferson Cleto, for his understanding and patience, fruitful participation in the discussion of Machado’s works, and emotional support during the hard process of writing in a language which is not my own. Robert Patrick Newcomb, from the University of California, Davis, who kindly sent me the original translation of ‘The National Instinct’, perhaps the most important article by Machado de Assis used in this analysis. Odile Cisneros, from the University of Alberta, who very kindly agreed to write an endorsement for this book due to her great interest in Machado de Assis, Brazilian literature and culture. I would also like to address my gratitude to João Cezar de Castro Rocha, the editor of the Brazilian Studies series, who accepted the proposal which originated this book.

Finally, I would like to thank Ana Lessa-Schmidt, who edited my English and whose knowledge of the language was indispensable for the full and complete coherence of the ideas exposed in this book. Ana is a linguist and translator who researches and lectures in Brazilian cultural studies in the areas of post-conflict, visual culture (cinema and photography), ← ix | x → literature, music and arts, and the Portuguese language. Her research focuses on Lusophone literature, music, and cinema, in which she explores images of national identity in Brazil, Angola, and Portugal. She has previously translated Machado de Assis’s work in Ex-Cathedra: Stories by Machado de Assis (Hanover: New London Librarium, 2014) and Miss Dollar: Stories by Machado de Assis (Hanover: New London Librarium, 2016, with Greicy Pinto Bellin). Good Days: Chronicles by Machado de Assis will be published in 2018 (Hanover: New London Librarium, with Greicy Pinto Bellin). Ana has also translated João do Rio’s Religions in Rio.

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X, 162
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
Non-hegemonic contexts Pan-Americanism Female representation Urban scene Literary imitation Literary identity National identity French simulacrum Parody Emulation
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2018. X, 159 pp.

Biographical notes

Greicy Pinto Bellin (Author)

Greicy Pinto Bellin is a professor in the Department of Literature at Centro Universitário Campos de Andrade (Uniandrade), Brazil. She has published a number of articles on the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Machado de Assis. Her most recent publication is an English translation of ten stories by Machado de Assis, Miss Dollar: Stories by Machado de Assis (2016, with Ana Lessa-Schmidt and Glenn Cheney).


Title: From European Modernity to Pan-American National Identity
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173 pages