the cartoon writing

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The Republic as an intellectual and artistic elaboration according to caricaturists and their readers

The thesis “Republic of penalties: the construction of the imagery repertoire of the Republic in the pages of magazines The Mequetrefe, Pictorial e Don Quixote (1889/1902)”, by Washington Kuklsinki Pereira, stands out for its good thematic definition, by identifying the Brazilian Republic also in the writing condition, with greater emphasis on Caricature, without forgetting textual press and legislation.[I] In this sense, the Republic is treated as an intellectual and artistic elaboration, made by different sectors of society in Brazil – among them, caricaturists and their readers.

Discussing the periodical press, which emerged so late in our country, is equally necessary in general terms of Cultural History, given the even later character of an editorial industry in the country focused on the production of books, from which newspapers and magazines are still constituted, at that time, in very important centers of intellectual and artistic debate – in addition to politics, of course.

The problematization of the theme, in this thesis, assumes some limits when it prioritizes characters (presidents of the republic, ministers, mayors) and a specific social space (the Federal District - city of Rio de Janeiro), partially leaving aside influential state nuclei of Economy and political power (São Paulo, Bahia, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Sul, etc.) and concentrating Politics in the institutional space, taking less into account its daily activities throughout society – power disputes.

The emphasis on the allegory of the Republic – the Brazilian version of the French Marianne – makes her remain even more attached to institutional Politics. It would be worth thinking about the use of this allegory as an indicator of an audience accustomed to that level of information, who knew the Gallic image and transferred it to the reality of Brazil - elitist citizenship, similar to what is seen at the inauguration of the Municipal Theater of São Paulo in 1911 , described by Mirna Busse Pereira (the people received inside the building were the elite of São Paulo; the poor of the city stayed outside)[ii]. Still in this context, it would be worth comparing themes researched in Brazil with their French counterparts, studied, among other works, in the book La caricature sous la IIIe. Republic, by Jacques Lethève, and consider that the Brazilian cultural dialogue with similar ones from France was very strong in the period that this research addresses[iii].

In the Washington study, the figure of the republican people, which gives the name to the regime, as is known, no longer appears explicitly – res publica, thing of the people. Some caricatured examples listed seem to allude to voters as animals, but people are not literally to be confused with that poorer portion of the population made inferior by comparison. Although it indicates a considerable bibliography on Caricature and the Republic in Brazil, the work ends up restricting this contact with books and articles to brief informative quotes, without effective critical dialogue, as can be seen in its relationship with my book Caricature Republic – Zé Povo and Brazil and with the work Ângelo Agostini – The Illustrated Press, from the Court to the Federal Capital (1864/1910), by Gilberto Maringoni. even the classic ones History of caricature in Brazil, by Herman Lima, and Press History in Brazil, by Nelson Werneck Sodré, were abundantly used only as informative sources, without reflections on their methodical characteristics – a brilliant Journalist and Archivist-Collector's History, in the first case, and a great Marxist historical overview, in the other. The evocation of José Murilo de Carvalho, through the notion of “bestialized” (copied from Aristides Lobo, as is known), requires critical debate, since Carvalho does not emphasize bestialization – who turned those beings into beasts, how was this process - . Alceu do Amoroso Lima, in the 20s, wrote the essay “Politica e Letras”, published in the collection On the margins of the History of the Republic, where he characterized the Brazilian empire as depoliticizing and averse to the formation of citizenship, which may offer clues to that bestialization – the biggest problem of the Empire and the Republic until then, as we can see…[iv]

On page 53 of the thesis, there is a generic reference to unidentified historians – who are they? It would also be convenient to mention Moacy Cirne, an important scholar of comics, particularly his book History and criticism of Brazilian comics, which highlights Agostini's pioneering spirit in the creation of this language in Brazil and even on an international scale[v].

Regarding the reach of such magazines outside the Federal District (p 87), in terms of distribution, it would be worth commenting on means and means of transport at the time (ships, trains, few highways) and discussing Monteiro Lobato’s essay “A caricatura no Brazil”, included in the volume Ideas by Jeca Tatu, which points to the farmer as a reader of that Press, plus the article by Max Fleiuss also entitled “Caricature in Brazil”, published in Magazine of the Brazilian Historical and Geographical Institute of 1916, a pioneering historical assessment of the theme, which inaugurated interest among Brazilian historians in this artistic and journalistic genre (preceded by visual arts critics, such as Monteiro Lobato and Gonzaga Duque, the latter in periodical articles later gathered in the posthumous volume contemporary). In the case of Fleiuss, author, among other works, of a Administrative history of Brazil, it is clear from the look of historical research towards the aforementioned documentation among us, which some historians continue to deny more than a hundred years later![vi]

Therefore, the thesis primarily understands the Brazilian Republic in a restricted political sense, reflecting less on its economic, cultural and social dimensions. The mention of coffee, in an allegorical visual tribute to the republican hero Benjamin Constant (p 163), evokes the emphasis of that artistic and cultural universe in the Economy and even in its connections with political power and national identity, not to mention the regime.

As in every work of this genre, there were typographical errors (“sixth” in place of “cesto”, p 208), vocabulary and concordance errors, as well as apparently incomprehensible passages (“because the caricaturist, like the poet, has the power to leave in your verbal and/or non-verbal text.” – p 25. Leave what?). On p 27, João, the regent of the Portuguese throne, is identified as “VI”, an ordinal applicable only after he became king of Portugal – 1816, informally, when his mother died, and 1818, when the consecration took place. Page 77 ends with a perhaps truncated passage (“the policeman in the minds of the slaves” – the first one did what in the minds of the others, is this a metaphor to indicate the psychological power of the first one?). On page 218, there is an identification mistake, in a caricatured image, between Floriano Peixoto and São Longuinho, when the imagery references clearly refer to the ancient Greek thinker Diógenes de Sinope (the lantern, the barrel), characterizing the ruler as a philosopher in search for an honest man to be the Mayor of the Federal District – incidentally, Floriano Peixoto emerges as a thinker and guarantor of the honesty of others.

Half of the volume is dedicated to the consolidation of Caricature in the Brazilian Press of the XNUMXth century, an important theme because it refers to understanding the formation of the public and artistic producers (image and text) in a country with a very late Press when compared to the other American colonies, but this justification is unclear in the argument presented, it could appear from the title, through the abstract and introduction. The title, in turn, suggests a concentration in three journals that, effectively, only occurs in the second half of the thesis. It is adequate in terms of content, but excessive in length and lacking in some specifications. This title could be abbreviated, with alterations, to “Republic of penalties: the caricatural repertoire of the Brazilian Republic in periodicals”. The Mequetrefe, Pictorial e Don Quixote (1889 / 1902).

There is also a lack of dialogue with the Literature of the time that problematized the nascent Brazilian Republic, in particular, Euclides da Cunha and Lima Barreto, being able to critically cover, in this step, the book Literature as a mission, by Nicolau Sevcenko, without losing sight of the political and historiographical context of its launch in 1983: the characterization, by this last work, of the generation of “intellectual musketeers” took place in the transition from the dictatorship of 1964/1985 to “redemocratization” (time of strikes, large public demonstrations against the dictatorship, ostensible presence of intellectuals in the political scene), linked to the definition, in that present, of different intellectuals from those who criticized the dying dictatorship (see interview of this historian to the magazine Veja, 803, 25.1.1984, which includes the call “The engagements and accommodations that limit Brazilian cultural production, in the view of a young and restless historian”)[vii]. Cunha, republican, denounced the treatment that the still new regime gave to the people in the Guerra de Canudos (1896/1897) – instead of Health and Education, bullets. Lima Barreto presented everyday violence against the poor and blacks or mulattos, mixed with the whitening ideology of Brazil. Are we facing cloak-and-dagger (musketeers), in a pejorative and banal sense, or the intellectual and political responsibility of those two writers and citizens facing major social problems? The dialogue with descriptive panoramas of Literature and the sociability of literati through journalistic memorialism, as Literary life in Brazil – 1900, by Brito Broca, and Social structure of the republic of letters, by AL Machado Neto, would also benefit the thesis, helping to understand the intellectual and artistic contexts of the caricatures[viii].

The notion of “Republic of feathers” can be interpreted in at least three ways: 1) Republic written by pen and ink in different textual and image genres (adopted by the thesis). 2) Republic of punishments (caricature as a punitive genre – riding punishing more). 3) Republic of sufferings (who suffered from these or these punishments?). The option made by the thesis is legitimate, but the polysemy of that expression cannot be ignored in the field of laughter, which so much appeals to shifts of meanings.

This issue of polysemy manifests itself in different commented images and has not always been sufficiently addressed by the work. The figure of a pig's head, p. e.g., includes a tear in that piece of swine corpse, articulates the Ideology of Progress (the slum – Cabeça dehog – must be destroyed) with a welcoming dimension (poor people – inhabitant of Cabeça dehog – suffer) – p 216. This cartoon is from 1893 and could be compared to the novel the tenement, by Aluísio de Azevedo, very expressive about the suffering of some in the face of the enrichment of others[ix].

The caricatures' relationships with facts and truth (pp 91/92) deserve to be nuanced, taking into account the biases of criticism and intentional distortion inherent to that artistic language. Although it does not always require textual reading (p 93), it is worth noting that it encompasses codes, allegories, symbologies, differing from an immediate and direct relationship: it is a writing (the feathers...), to be deciphered.

The thesis tends to work magazines as almost exclusively caricatures, although it registers the presence of other materials (writing and image genres) in their pages. It would be worth emphasizing that many of the images printed there assumed the content of receptive allegories, if not illustrations in the more traditional descriptive and informative sense – portraits of public figures, for example, as indicated in the identification of government members, in veritable galleries. Even in the explicit caricatures, there is laughter of exclusion and laughter of welcome (there is a record of complimentary caricatures on page 14 of the work), according to Dupreèl's typology[X], inviting the analysis to diversify its conclusions.

The study presents, in summary, contributions of interest, deserving greater dissemination.

* Mark Silva is a professor at the Department of History at FFLCH-USP.


[I] PEREIRA, Washington Kuklinski. Republic of feathers: the construction of the imagery repertoire of the Republic on the pages of magazines The Mequetrefe, Revista Ilustrada and Don Quixote..Doctoral Thesis in History, defended at PUC/SP. São Paulo: typed, 2016.

[ii] PEREIRA, Mirna Busse. Culture and the city: Cultural practice and policy in 2005th-century São Paulo. Doctoral Thesis in History, defended at PUC/SP. São Paulo: typed, XNUMX.

[iii] LETHÈVE, Jacques.La caricature sous la IIIe. Republic. Paris: Armand Colin, 1986.

[iv] SILVA, Mark. Caricature Republic – Zé Povo and Brazil. São Paulo: Marco Zero/CNPq, 1990, 100 pp (Where is the Republic?)

MARINGONI, Gilberto. Ângelo Agostini – The Illustrated Press from the Court to the Federal Capital (1864/1910). São Paulo: Devir Livraria, 2011.This publication resumes the Doctoral Thesis in Social History by the same Author, dated 2006.

LIMA, Herman. History of caricature in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro: José Olympio, 1963.

SODRÉ, Nelson Werneck. History of the Press in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 1966.

CARVALHO, José Murilo de. Os bestializados – Rio de Janeiro and the Republic that was not. Sao Paulo: Cia. of Letters, 1987.

SILVA, Marcos.“About Subjects and Stories – Barcarola for Marilena”, in: PAOLI, Maria Celia (org.). Dialogues with Marilena Chauí. São Paulo: Discurso/Barcarola, 2011, pp 57/70.

LIMA, Alceu do Amoroso. “Politics and Letters”, in: CARDOSO, Vicente Licínio (Org.). On the fringes of the History of the Republic - Survey by writers of the generation born with the Republic. 3rd ed. Recife: Massangana, 1990. pp 209-256 (1st ed.: 1924).

[v] CIRNE, Moacy. History and criticism of Brazilian comics. Rio de Janeiro: FUNARTE, 19 .

[vi] MONTEIRO LOBATO, Jose Bento. “Caricature in Brazil”, in: Ideias de Jeca Tatu. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1959, pp 3/21.

FLEIUSS, Max. “Caricature in Brazil”. Magazine of the Brazilian Historical and Geographical Institute. Rio de Janeiro: IHGB, 80: 584/609, 1916.

GONZAGA DUQUE, Luiz. Contemporary – Painters and sculptors. Rio de Janeiro: Benedito de Souza, 1929.

FLEIUSS, Max. Administrative history of Brazil. São Paulo: Melhoramentos, 1932 (1st ed.: 1923).

[vii]CUNHA, Euclides da. The hinterlands. São Paulo: Três, 1984 (1st ed.: 1902).

LIMA BARRETO, Afonso Henriques de. Numa and the nymph. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1961 (Obras de Lima Barreto — III) (1st ed. 1915).

SEVCENKO, Nicholas. Literature as a mission. São Paulo Brasiliense 1985.This publication resumes the Doctoral Thesis in Social History by the same Author, dated 1981

[viii]BROCA, Brito. Literary life in Brazil, 1900. Rio de Janeiro MEC, 1956.

MACHADO NETO, AL Social structure of the republic of letters. São Paulo: EDUSP, 1973.

[ix] AZEVEDO, Aluísio de. the tenement. São Paulo: Klick, 1997 (1st ed.: 1890).

[X] DUPRÈL, E. “Le problème sociologique du rire”. Revue Philosophique de la France et de l'Étranger. Paris: F. Alcan, 106, Sep/Oct 1928.

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