The idea with the passion – Gonçalves Dias by contemporary critics

Image: sketch by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec


Presentation of the recently released collection.

In 2023, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of our first great romantic poet, Antônio Gonçalves Dias, from Maranhão from the city of Caxias, born on August 10, 1823, son of a Portuguese father and a mother of indigenous and black descent, apparently – making the poet a Brazilian who felt his origin firsthand and responded to it in the way he could. In a poetic way, we would say, as it was his poetry that was responsible for establishing romantic Indianism as a Brazilian alternative, for better or for worse.

However, the work of Gonçalves Dias is broader than his Indianist poetry, of a high level, without a doubt, but just one of the forms visited by the poet, playwright, ethnographer, journalist, historian... A more comprehensive appreciation of his work, therefore, it is more than welcome, and, in the book we now present, we hope to be able, at least in part, to resolve such doubts, and, at the same time, evaluate its legacy within the history of Brazilian literature.

In romantic Brazil, the mission of the first authors, and more specifically of those who until then grew up in the programmatic shadow of Gonçalves de Magalhães, was to configure the thematic elements necessary to define the image and the formative discourse of Brazilian nationality. In the years following political independence, and somewhat supported by the resumption of a desired historical nexus, whose primary function was to legitimize the new status of the country, romantic literature played a fundamental role in the double process of construction and dissemination of the idea of ​​nation among Brazilians. In other words, Romanticism ended up inventing Brazil.

Within this perspective, the literary emergence of Antônio Gonçalves Dias, which occurred with the publication of First corners (1846), was a decisive event for the affirmation of a desired Brazilian literature, especially when he was soon recognized as a national poet who was essentially romantic. In addition to causing a first sensation of uneasiness in relation to the literary hegemony of Gonçalves de Magalhães, the Maranhão native's debut book gave Brazilian Romanticism an innovative aspect, especially by providing local poetry with originality both in the expression of romantic feeling in both in resolving the problem of literary nationality.

In other words, assuming, in a relatively short space of time, canonical importance, the poetry of Gonçalves Dias, later complemented by second corners (1848) last corners (1851) and the unfinished epic The Timbiras (1857), while founding a new poetic tradition, influenced the literary formation of subsequent poets. It was through his work that the new generations learned Romanticism. Antonio Candido, referring, for example, to the importance of First chants, highlights the fact that “what was previously theme – longing, melancholy, nature, Indian – becomes a new and fascinating experience, thanks to the superiority of inspiration and formal resources”.

In general terms, the poetry of Gonçalves Dias – notably due to the immediate public resonance of the “American poems”, including both the paradigmatic “Canção do Exílio”, whose verses would be incorporated into the National Anthem, and the poems specifically with indigenous themes – It was fundamental for the outlining of a properly literary nationalism. We also highlight that, as an active member of the Brazilian Historical and Geographical Institute, the poet also carried out several researches on the indigenous universe: Vocabulary of the general language used today in Alto-Amazonas (1851); Amazon: memory (1855) Dictionary of the Tupi language, called the general language of the indigenous people of Brazil (1858) and Brazil and Oceania (1867)

However, we should not lose sight of the fact that his poetic production was not restricted solely to the Indianist aspect, which, in fact, is numerically small, as, in the majority of his work, the poet from Maranhão dialogued with other themes inherent to the romantic aesthetics, such as love, longing, the relationship with nature, religiosity, etc. In addition to poetry, and having worked in the theater with his romantic dramas (Patkull, Beatriz Cenci, Leonor de Mendonca e Boabdil), Gonçalves Dias also managed to find some loopholes that allowed him to express, in the case of Meditation, the inherent contradictions that have always permeated the core of power relations in nineteenth-century Brazilian society, especially when discussing the thorny problem of slavery.

Despite the evident influence on his contemporaries, the poetry of Gonçalves Dias – perhaps our first poets' poem – established, since then, a constant and fruitful dialogue that, far exceeding the limits of Romanticism, has even reached the present day, which obviously attests to its perpetuity. The quality he gave to everything he wrote, the ability to participate, literarily, in the great questions posed to XNUMXth century intellectuals from a newly independent, non-hegemonic country, the naturalness of his Romanticism, all of this makes Gonçalves Dias an inevitable author for discussing Brazilian literature as it came to be and how it still shapes itself today.

And perhaps the best testimony (and still current) about the importance of Gonçalves Dias for Brazilian literature is that of Machado de Assis, who, when speaking at the inauguration of the poet's bust on the Passeio Público in Rio de Janeiro, on June 2, 1901, referring to Gonçalvina poetry and more notably to “Canção de Exílio”, declared that “the song is in all of us, like the other songs that he came to spread throughout life and the world, [...] everything that the old people They heard it in their youth, then the younger ones, and from now on they will hear others and others, as long as the language we speak is the language of our destinies”.

In this sense, and taking Machado's judgment into account, the main intention of this book is to, as far as possible, present the multiple facets of the poet from Maranhão.

In her article, Ana Karla Canarinos reads Meditation, notably due to the effects of slavery on Brazilian education, trying to think of this work as something of a precursor to the tradition of interpretative essayism on the history of Brazil. Andréa Camila de Faria Fernandes, through the autobiographical note that Gonçalves Dias sent to Ferdinand Denis, problematizes the poet's efforts to construct his own name as a national poet. Andréa Sirihal Werkema, based on two romantic motifs, that is, longing and the representation of sentimental subjectivity, presents the reading of two emblematic poems: “Canção do exílio” and “I-Juca-Pirama”.

Giovanna Gobbi Alves Araújo gives a brief and accurate reading of the unfinished epic Os Timbiras, emphasizing, among other aspects, in addition to obviously the overvaluation of indigenous people, a severe criticism of Portuguese colonial exploitation. Gisele Gemmi Chiari, against the backdrop of the paths of Brazilian theater in the XNUMXth century, focuses on the discussion of the theatrical work of Gonçalves Dias, whose four dramas are permeated by a strong historical hue. José Américo Miranda presents a fine reading of the poem that Machado de Assis wrote in homage to the poet from Maranhão and which was published in Americans.

Leonardo Davino de Oliveira, attesting to the emblematic character of “Canção do exílio” beyond the literary universe, discusses the resonances of the most famous Gonçalvino poem in the Brazilian popular songbook. Through the study of epigraphs used in First corners, Marcos Flamínio Peres rescues and problematizes the literary relationship between Gonçalves Dias and the French romantic poet Édouard Turquety. Natália Gonçalves de Souza Santos, also insisting on the resonances of “Canção do exílio”, presents two modulations of the Gonçalves poem, one by the then law student Andrade e Silva, but known as José Bonifácio, the young man, published in 1853, and another by Piauí poet JF da Costa, published in 1879.

Pedro Marques, based on reading First corners, problematizes the meanings and functions of the concept of “song”, or rather, the “sound enchantment” that permeates Gonçalvina’s poetics, one of the traits that, for Olavo Bilac, would have inscribed the poet from Maranhão in posterity. Renata Ribeiro Lima, mainly through the study of letters exchanged with his friend Teófilo Leal, discusses Gonçalves Dias' strategies for, ultimately, also “inventing himself” as an exiled poet. Finally, Wilton José Marques historicizes the process of insertion of the poet from Maranhão in the intellectual environment, in public employment and, above all, in the press of Rio de Janeiro, between 1846 and 1851, as a survival strategy anchored in some providential favors.

Andréa Sirihal Werkema She is a professor of Brazilian literature at UERJ. Author, among other books, of The two ends of literature: criticism and creation in Machado de Assis (Reliquary).

Wilton José Marques He is a professor of literary theory and Brazilian literature at UFSCar. Author, among other books, of Gonçalves Dias: the poet against the grain (EdUFSCar).


Andréa Sirihal Werkema & Wilton José Marques (orgs). The idea with the passion: Gonçalves Dias through contemporary criticism. São Paulo, Alameda, 2023, 382 pages. []

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