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From European Modernity to Pan-American National Identity

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


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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Sílvio Romero,1 in his famous and controversial História da Literatura Brasileira [History of the Brazilian Literature], written in 1897 to criticize Machado de Assis, seemed to have noticed the existence of relationships between Machado, Poe and Baudelaire’s works, referring to them in a sarcastic but significant way:

quanto ao horrível, agrada-me muito mais o de Edgar Poe, que era realmente um ébrio e louco de gênio, ou o de Baudelaire, que era de fato um devasso e epilético. O humour de Machado de Assis é um pacto diretor de secretaria de Estado, e o horrível em seus livros é uma espécie de burguês prazenteiro, condecorado com a comenda da rosa. (Romero 1897: 131–134)

[as for the horrible, I am much more pleased by Edgar Poe, who was really a drunkard and had a mad temper, or by Baudelaire, who was in fact a dissolute and an epileptic (…) the horrible in Machado’s books is a kind of pleasurable bourgeois, consecrated with the commendation of the Order of the Rose.] (my translation)

It is obvious that Romero was using the references to Poe and Baudelaire to accuse Machado of lack of originality, due to the writer’s criticism against him in the famous essay ‘A Nova Geração’ [‘The New Generation’], written in 1879. Except for the personal resentment, however, what I intend to show is Romero’s embodiment with the spirit of the time, as well as...

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