Água de beber

Jackson Pollock, Untitled, (c. 1952)
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By JOSÉ MIGUEL WISNIK*

“Greeting speech” delivered on the occasion of the granting of the title of Professor Emeritus, by the FFLCH, to Alfredo Bosi

Many have been able to experience, over the decades, in professor Alfredo Bosi's classes, moments of discovery, clarification, unveiling, enchantment and a call to a critical position. Many times we leave the class happy with her and unhappy with ourselves (adapting a phrase by Vieira that Bosi applies to Otto Maria Carpeaux's essays), that is, mobilized by his capacity to go to the thorny core of the themes, contemplating so much the authentic consolation that literature enables us, by illuminating the world, as the malaise that cries out deafly in the world touched by reflection.

One recognizes in him, in a certain way, a dialectical swing, like his master Carpeaux, between the desire to overcome the limits of literature and the recognition of the pressing need for the “uselessness” of literature. For him, deeply assuming the University has always been accompanied by a warning not to close ourselves in his “island of illusion”. In his case, he did this by reaching out to those who remained outside of it and thinking about alternatives for a transformative educational policy.

It has always been a challenge, a pleasure and a gift to traverse these spaces, the explicit and the implicit, the close connections of her exhibitions and the messages she disseminates, the heuristic intricacies and hermeneutic breadth, the subtleties and nuances of observation and her totalizing thrust, guided by his vision of the great breadth of literature and by his extraordinary ability to transit with propriety through the fields of history, sociology, anthropology, psychology and philosophy.

Whether in a course on Colonial Literature, Romanticism or Modernism, the entire secular ground of modern history was summoned directly or indirectly as a counterpoint to the complexities of literature. Furthermore, if we could learn, for example, the distinction between class, caste e estate, or the etymology of the word decision (fall from above) concrete (grow with), teenager (present participle of the same verb whose past participle is adult), not to mention lap, worship e culture as modulations, at the same root, of the entire dialectic of colonization, we could still be transported, at certain times, to the Neolithic period, to the origin of cities, to the myth of Prometheus, to the question of people in tribal societies, for the Tupi-Guarani myth of land without evil (indigenous anthropology presented in its multiple refractions), as well as the critical examination of the sociology developed at USP, the clarification of its assumptions and the discussion of its limits. In his first undergraduate course on Modernism, the conception of language of the aesthetic vanguards was confronted with the theory of the unconscious in an unusual way then, and even later.

Yudith Rosenbaum drew attention to the presence in her critical text, especially in the essay “Céu, inferno”, of a vocabulary in tune with psychoanalysis — without being attached to it, but as an indication of the relevance of subjectivity in a critique that does not lose sight of from a social-historical point of view: “sphere of the imaginary”, “patchwork of dreams and desires”, “anxiety of the subject”, “needs and lacks transmuted into compensatory achievements”, “childhood frustrations”, the “twisting of dreams, desires and reality". Yudith also observes that his criticism pays attention to the “unique voices”, to the themes “of identification, of the becoming of fantasy, of the passage from the state of lack to completeness”, as well as to the subtle instances of suddenness, the unforeseen and chance.

I remember our dear colleague João Luiz Lafetá (whose birthday would be celebrated today, March 12th) telling, still at the time of the Maria Antonia joint commissions, about the seminar that the young professor Bosi had presented on the then recent The words and things, by Michel Foucault. Thus we also know his exposition about Vico or the discussion of the theories of the biologist Jacques Monod about chance and necessity, written signs of what was breathed in the classes, in such a way that there is no way to resonate if it is not in the memory: a reflexive restlessness of broad spectrum, with a universalist vocation, waging increasingly fierce and recrudescent clashes with the contemporary. What stands out is his very personal mastery, in his own unique and striking way, of a wide range of issues treated with rigor and extreme articulation in a style not prone, as we know, to digression and digression.

When, in good time, Professor Alfredo Bosi started to work in the area of ​​Brazilian Literature, the first postgraduate course taught by him was about the poetry of Jorge de Lima, in the early 1970s. a sign of one of his personal brands, almost an implicit pronouncement: as a left-wing Catholic, he discreetly and incisively drew attention to themes less dear to prevailing materialism, such as the irreducibility of the person, his moral constitution, childhood, memory, and, certainly, the poet's visionary and religious lyricism from Alagoas. These keys would return in his much later essays on the irreducibility of the person, his moral constitution in Machado, on childhood and memory in Graciliano Ramos and Guimarães Rosa, on the great poetic-religious construction in Dante. Bosi modulated these themes with broad erudition and a keen perception of the critical assumptions involved in the choices, typical of someone who was aware of current critical theories, but still stinging them with a sieve that was foreign to them.

This position had an extraordinary yield at that time when thesis defenses were serious and important moments in academic life: his arguments almost always went to nodal points and problematic nuclei involved in the work. See, for example, the “Arguição a Paulo Emílio” and the “Homage to Sérgio Buarque de Holanda” in Heaven Hell, which both contain comprehensive and acute readings of the driving forces and contradictions involved in the works of these two great intellectuals from the University of São Paulo.

Alfredo Bosi's course on Jorge de Lima also had a certain generous profile that marked USP's literary studies at that time: the bibliography opened a wide range, ranging from structuralism to stylistics, from the analysis of the underlying tensions between prosodic accent and verse meter to dream interpretation from Freud, from Structural semantics from Greimas to Adorno's essay on poetry and society. This broad range of approaches by no means meant abandoning eclecticism.

Comparable to the experience of Professor Antonio Candido's courses in the same period, although in a different way, each item in the proposed bibliography was related to the reading of a specific poem by Jorge de Lima that seemed to request the specificity of that critical bias. Although the Hegelian and Crocean bases of his formation and his strong connection with humanist historicism placed him very far from formalism and structuralism, Professor Bosi was putting into practice that tacit principle of the good USP strain, then in force, of incorporating the approaches formal elements in a larger scope that included, in this case, psychoanalysis and Critical Theory.

Confidence in the arc of this methodological alliance, proposed as a training model pointing to something to come, which was auspicious, and with which the Languages ​​course rebutted and responded with greatness to the technical demands of the period, was later broken with the intensification of controversy and with the most militant and reactive disposition of spirits, separated into opposing and ideologized camps.

I remember a debate moderated by Alfredo Bosi at an SBPC Meeting, held in a crowded room at the University, in the late 1970s or early 1980s, between Luiz Costa Lima and Roberto Schwarz, with special participation by José Arthur Giannotti and Marilena Chaui. Among the burning issues raised there, the clash between Marxism and structuralism, Frankfurtism and the issue of popular culture — Bosi seemed to know how to orchestrate the assumptions involved in the different positions, seeing them in such a way as to point out the danger of converting his points view of ideologies. (If I allow myself to make this narrative, it is not because I want to assert the superiority of someone over others, but to name the uniqueness of a position, at a given historical moment.)

If it is also true that Alfredo Bosi realizes, like few others, the integrating ideal of the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences, this would certainly not be possible without the contribution of literature as the dialogical and unifying instance par excellence, capable of requesting, provoking, altering, questioning and crossing the specificity and specialization of discourses. I know that the idea of ​​the universalizing vocation of literature cannot be attributed a generic validity. On the contrary, I want to say precisely that this proposition is historically situated: it was possible for Professor Alfredo Bosi to fulfill with excellence, and perhaps consummate, among us, the great cycle of historicist and humanist literary criticism, of philological and historical training, with a aesthetic and social time, which proposes to accompany literature through a great temporal arc, which goes back to Homer, as an anti-ideological force line a force line with a vocation to cross, counter and resist the domination of ideologies.

Two difficult questions arise here. A cut-off point to be studied, as a cultural history theme, makes the idea that such a scale can be concentrated today in the “critical mass” of a single person (as in Auerbach and Carpeaux, Antonio Candido and Bosi) a perfect mirage (here I am not comparing people either, but I try to distinguish a paradigm: that of the critic who seems to carry with him the all literature).

On the other hand, the heritage of this tradition is placed, as a challenge and problem, in a world whose extreme diagnosis Professor Bosi himself made (I try to review it, knowing that it raises controversial issues that it is not the place to discuss here): the literature sucked into the spectacular and marketing hypermimicry that took on the effects of the society of the spectacle; disfigured in citation and infinite gloss, without nerve, without center and without subject in the postmodern critical currents; reduced to testimony without poetic thickness in the politically correct claims of cultural studies; reduced to typical schematism to the detriment of its irreducible singularity.

This devastated evaluation of the contemporary, in which the capitalist discourse (I am thinking in the psychoanalytic sense of the concept, as it has been developed from Lacanian theory) gains an unprecedented power of subjective and objective intrusion; points, at the limit, to a point of rupture in that line of force of which literature is a far-reaching witness in humanist historicism (Bosi speaks of a time of “trial”). Even where we might not completely identify with his position (differences, as he himself says quoting Simone Weil, do not prevent friendships, nor friendship differences), thinking about the complexity of these issues is an unavoidable challenge for literary studies and for teachers, students and researchers of other generations, knowing that we are facing a problematic legacy, a generous irradiation and a lesson in grandeur.

As a hallmark of his intellectual personality, it can be said that Alfredo Bosi effectively sought to discuss and understand difficult and complex issues, expanding the field of our understanding and oscillating, in his own way, between being comprehensive and implacable, implacable and comprehensive. I do not want to fail to emphasize that his teaching, due to its open and questioning nature, cannot be reduced to ready-made formulas that can be easily applied in advance.

And I want to finally hum a song. She comes here to celebrate Professor Alfredo's full recovery after the illness that led him to undergo a delicate heart operation. It's Antonio Carlos Jobim's music for the words Vinicius de Moraes wrote when he embraced the cause of social justice and converted to the left:

I never did anything so right, I joined the school of forgiveness. My house is open,
Open all the doors of the heart.
Water to drink,
Drinking water, comrade. Water to drink,
Drinking water, comrade.

* Jose Miguel Wisnick is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at FFLCH-USP. Author, among other books, of Machining the World: Drummond and Mining (Company of Letters).

 

 

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