Listening to the People's Voice: Erudite and Popular Literature in North East Brazil (Hardback)

by Mark Andrew Dinneen

Format: Hardback 296 pages

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Erudite writers in Brazil have consistently attempted to assimilate expressions of popular culture and folklore into their work, and this process has long given a considerable dynamism to the development of the nation's literature. The core of the present work will be an exploration of that process, which can only be understood in the context of the continued employment of literature as an instrument for forging cultural nationalism in Brazil, and the central place occupied in the process by regionalism as a vital factor in the country's literary development. It is upon the Brazilian North East that the study will focus, since nowhere in Brazil has literary regionalism proved more dynamic and resiliant, or programmes to promote regional art and culture formulated more clearly and consistently. It is a vast area comprising nine states which has developed a strong tradition of erudite literature (Alencar, Tavera, da Cunha, Ramos, Amado, Suassuna), and which to this day remains rich in folkloric forms of expression (song, music, dance, poetry and legend). The basic objectives of the work may be summarized as follows. Firstly, it aims to highlight the crucial difference between the erudite literary tradition of North East Brazil and the popular cultural expressions of the region, especially the popular poetic or "romanceiro" tradition, showing how those differences are rooted in the contrasting objective conditions within which the respective literatures are produced. Secondly, the study follows the attempts made through the years by erudite writers of the North East to overcome the problem of those cultural divisions and incorporate elements of popular culture into their work in an effort to affirm a distinctly regional identity. The work will therefore trace the broad historical development of North East regionalist literature, indicating the principal transitions it has undergone in response to changing perceptions of national culture, regional identity and popular culture. Finally, the study presents an analysis of the work of Ariano Suassuna, seen as the major contribution to this regionalist artistic tradition in recent decades. Much has been written on the relationship between high culture and popular culture in Europe and the United States, but surprisingly little research has been produced, especially in English, on the specific forms which the debate has taken in Brazil, and the particular ways in which they have helped to shape the country's erudite literature. The study intends to show how the assimilation of popular culture into erudite writing of the North East has produced work of great originality, but which has also often embodied the contradictions inherent in the schemes of cultural nationalism and regional affirmation already referred to.

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