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From European Modernity to Pan-American National Identity

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

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Greicy Pinto Bellin

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.
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The purpose of this book is to analyse and discuss the literary confluences between Edgar Allan Poe, Machado de Assis and Charles Baudelaire, as well as the ways in which these confluences shaped Machado’s view of literary modernity and literary national identity. The confluences between these three writers appear as a way to deconstruct widely accepted notions according to which Machado de Assis was an emulator of French literature, a notion that was widespread in nineteenth-century Brazilian literary circles. My analysis worked in the opposite direction, so that it was possible to show that Machado, for perceiving the United States as a parameter to be followed by Brazilian literature in relation to the search for a national identity, emulated Poe’s works and critically parodied Baudelaire’s poetry, which he considered a hindrance for the establishment of nineteenth-century Brazilian poetry, as he argued in the essay ‘A Nova Geração’ [‘The New Generation’] (1879).

All the works of North American writers such as Poe and Longfellow arrived in Brazil due to French intermediation, given the undeniable cultural monopoly of France in the world at that time. It has been extensively discussed that Poe’s works became famous around the world due to the Baudelairian translation, but the fact is that this translations implied a distortion of Poe’s stories. Baudelaire himself was accused of plagiarism and admitted that he only translated what was convenient for him, which justifies the reason why Poe’s essays on literary criticism and cultural dependence were...

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