John Adolfo Hansen



Profile of the literary critic awarded today with the title of Professor Emeritus of FFLCH-USP

João Adolfo Hansen joined the teaching career at the University of São Paulo in 1983 when, in August, he was approved in a competition to select teachers for the area of ​​Brazilian Literature, from the Department of Classical and Vernacular Literature. He carried out his postgraduate research through that same department. He became a full professor five years after the defense, in 2002, of his Habilitation thesis.

His master's thesis (OO: The fiction of literature in Grande sertão: veredas, 1983) took place at a time when the reception of this work was divided into two fields. Some scholars considered that she did not face the misery of the Brazilian sertão with realism, while others proposed that Guimarães Rosa would have carried out a “revolution” of ruptures and aesthetic deviations, a kind of Joyce of the sertaneja metalanguage.

In another direction, João Adolfo Hansen sought to demonstrate that the literary and utopian project of Guimarães Rosa rewrites language itself, the material of his fiction, with an eminently political sense of rejection and criticism of instrumental languages, degraded in petrified uses as myth and ideology. At that time when the reading circulated that the work of Guimarães Rosa contained a mystical conservative bias, the work of João Adolfo Hansen addressed fictional devices of this literature that, according to him, push the limits of meaning and meaning. In the figuration of the poor and illiterate sertanejo, the novel enacts the ideological limits of the historical particularity of contemporary instrumental reason, de-realizing the dominant logics.

From this perspective, Guimarães Rosa always states in his art that inhumanities also exist in language and discourse. According to the critic, big hinterland it narrates coastal and illustrated versions of “Brazilian culture” that, since the XNUMXth century, have resumed and transformed colonial representations, dealing with the hinterland in projects of national integration, civilization and control. The illustrated versions of coastal culture are corroded by the mimesis of Idea, which Guimarães Rosa metaphorizes, by appropriating procedures of the “metaphor without resemblance” of Platonists, to constitute the voice of Riobaldo as a place through which various places-dissolved pass through. common.

João Adolfo Hansen's work partially resumed Antonio Candido's essay, “O homem dos aversos”, from 1957, about Grande Sertão: paths. In it Candido proposes that Guimarães Rosa quotes, stylizes and parodies fundamental texts of Brazilian Literature – the prose of the romantics, José de Alencar, Taunay and Franklin, Távora; the prose of realists and naturalists, as Luzia-Man e The Sertões; the São Paulo modernists of 1922 and the northeastern authors of 1930. OO: The fiction of literature in Grande sertão: veredas Finally, it discusses the political meaning of this effectuation and defines it as a negative rationalization of the form that enacts a linguistic and literary utopia.

The award-winning doctoral thesis (1988) by João Adolfo Hansen was entitled Satire and ingenuity: Gregório de Matos and Bahia in the XNUMXth century. Its implementation was based on consultations with Minutes e Letters from the Senate of the Chamber of Salvador, between 1640 and 1740, letters from governors of Bahia in the XNUMXth century, in documentation of the visit of the Holy Office of the Inquisition to Bahia in the early XNUMXth century, in inquisitorial manuals – such as that of Nicolau Eymerich and Francisco Peña, Directorium Inquisitionum, besides the Malleus maleficarum, by H. Kramer and J. Sprenger – and in treatises on rhetoric and poetics that circulated at the time.

The work showed that, as a rhetorical-poetic genre, seventeenth-century satire is homologous to the practices of inquisitorial denunciation and confession. The reason for the satire attributed to Gregório de Matos e Guerra is based on Canon Law guided, according to João Adolfo Hansen, by the Catholic doctrine that affirms the dogma of the natural light of innate grace as a condition for the legality and legitimacy of the positive laws of the city . His enunciation composes apparent distinctions of “legal”, “legitimate”, “eternal”, “natural”, “positive”, “pure” and “impure”, ordering them according to the rhetorical standards of the representation of a rationality in which orthodoxy and hierarchy are core.

From this perspective, there is a great ordering principle of Portuguese-Brazilian representations in the XNUMXth century, interpreted theologically according to the great metaphysical opposition that underpins all practices of time and opposes the finite and the infinite. Such complementary opposition repeats, according to João Adolfo Hansen, Aristotle, Saint Augustine and mainly Saint Thomas Aquinas who seeks to demonstrate the presence of the divine infinite, providentially advising the free will of finite judgment in temporal causes. Articulated with the doctrine of syllogistic judgment, From anima III, the doctrine of St. Augustine means that, in poetry, the order of the ingenious concept – modeled in rhetorical-poetic terms by the three scholastic analogies of attribution, proportion and proportionality – is simultaneously a dramatization of the theological-political concept of the order that governs the hierarchy in providential terms.

After analyzing the reception of the poetry attributed to Gregório de Matos e Guerra, from the biography written by the Licenciado Manuel Pereira Rabelo, in the XNUMXth century, through the Histories of Literature from the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, João Adolfo Hansen compares the system of production, circulation and modern consumption with the old, emphasizing that the latter is not based on notions such as “author”, “authorship” and “originality”. Rather, it constitutes an imitation of topics and precepts of theological-political and rhetorical-poetic doctrines, provided for in custom.

The critic also rejects the possibility, considered anachronistic, that seventeenth-century colonial lyrics could be understood according to nationalist teleology or the notion of “rupture”. By re-establishing the participation of poetry attributed to Gregório de Matos e Guerra in the Portuguese cultural system and confronting the old providentialist conception of history with that which defines the progress of history according to a linear and progressive vector, João Adolfo Hansen's work has become innocuous the possibility that it could be read as a manifestation in germ of the “spirit” of the nation, or as a critique of social life and tradition. His thesis is also dedicated to a reflection on the insufficiency of the modern notion “'baroque' period style”, not only because this designation escapes the ancient time to which it is applied, but, above all, because he considers that it narrows the multiplicity of questions that involve the artistic styles in each work and in each time.

By linking the study of poetry attributed to Gregório de Matos e Guerra to his historical and social practices, Satire and Ingenuity reoriented the studies of colonial literature on other bases, opening up several questions and possibilities for research on it, including putting into circulation poetic procedures and artistic genres almost out of circulation and that show the richness of literate production in the colonial period.

After defending his doctorate, João Adolfo Hansen carried out research on the most diverse topics in his field of activity, interconnected with other areas of Human Sciences, such as Visual Arts, Philosophy, Politics and History, always based on research in archives and establishing correlations between them and the present of the scholar's enunciation. From then on, he expanded his research across space and time, expanding the number of historical, anthropological, rhetorical and artistic questions that he had been dealing with. His works focus on a critical and documentary analysis of Portuguese-Brazilian representational practices, produced between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, and of the literary and artistic historiography that, since the XNUMXth century, has been dealing with them.

In his research after his thesis, on Portuguese-Brazilian practices of representation, João Adolfo Hansen traces a time frame located since colonization – with the establishment of the General Government, the arrival of the mission of the Society of Jesus, headed by Manuel da Nóbrega, in the 1580th century –, the beginning of the Iberian Union, in XNUMX, and then, from the XNUMXth century, including the State of Maranhão and Grão-Pará, until the definitive expulsion of the Jesuits and the reforms of the Marquis of Pombal, in the XNUMXth century. XVIII.

In carrying out his works, he crosses discursive and non-discursive practices from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth centuries with speeches from official documents – from City Councils, minutes and letters, Governors’ regiments, royal orders, processes, lawsuits and appeals from Courts, customs books , contracts for the purchase and sale of slaves, inventories, etc. –, with texts from canon law; with various Greek and Latin rhetorics, others scholastically redefining them and realizing the doctrine of emulating scholars and craftsmen, who represent royal power for the so-called “mystical body” of the Portuguese Empire. At the crossroads, he establishes homologies between fictional and non-fictional discourses and in them recovers the mimicry of doctrinal principles and theological-political precepts that governed colonial representation.

His research deals with representations corresponding to the colonizing processes of the “Catholic policy” of the Spanish and Portuguese absolute monarchy, in the States of Brazil and Maranhão and Grão-Pará, dealing with subjects such as: the scholastic doctrine of the Portuguese State defined as “body mystical” of orders and estates subordinate to the immortal person of the king; the hierarchy founded on the anti-Lutheran and anti-Machiavellian “pact of subjection” and on the inequality of privileges determined by “reason of State”; the substantialism of the Catholic dogma of the natural light of innate grace, which defines the proportionate participation of nature and history in the metaphysical substance of God; the scholastic analogy, which in its three metaphysical, logical and rhetorical species – attribution, proportion, proportionality – qualifies all historical times and representations of them as providentialist history; mercantilism, indoctrinated according to Giovanni Botero's thesis of “interest” as opposed to Machiavelli's and Hobbes' theses of the war of all against all; the metropolitan exclusive; sugar monoculture and the search for metals; Jesuit education; the catechesis of the Indians; the slavery of blacks; the “just war” against the gentiles and quilombolas; Corte's rationality, as ethics and etiquette, rhetoric and poetics of sharpness, discretion in acts and civility in the manners of the “best” or “representative people”; the predominance of orality and forms of the short time of hearing; about the education of princes by the “mirror” genre; to no aesthetic autonomy of poetry and prose; the handwritten circulation of texts; the absence of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment authorial regimes, such as “expression”, “psychological subjectivity”, “copyright”, “originality”, “plagiarism”; the definition of “author”, “work” and “public” according to the substantialist principles of the notions of “mystical body” and “common good” external to the conception of “author”, “work” and “public” of national literature; the substantialist or non-Cartesian conception of the sign, which does not distinguish between concept and image; The authority of Aristotelian mimesis, etc.

It also deals with other satires and lyrics by Gregório de Matos e Guerra, texts by Manoel da Nóbrega, Antônio Vieira, Serafim Leite and others from the Society of Jesus, Pero Vaz de Caminha, Camões, Dante, Giulio Camilo, Tomás Antônio Gonzaga, Silva Alvarenga, Cláudio Manoel da Costa among others.

João Adolfo Hansen's research also examines various works, authors and historical and artistic categories typical of modern and contemporary times. He produced several other works dedicated to authors, visual artists, literary theorists, historians and categories typical of this time: on the work of Michel de Certeau, Roger Chartier, Eric Auerbach, Dante, Camões, Cervantes, Sousândrade, Castro Alves, Machado de Assis , Augusto dos Anjos, Oswald de Andrade, Mário de Andrade, Clarice Lispector, Guimarães Rosa, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Cecília Meireles, marginal poetry in the 1970s, Saramago, Hilda Hilst, Glauco Mattoso, Régis Bonvicino, Verônica Stigger, Hélio Oiticica , Rubens Gerchman and Carlos Bracher; on the notions of “author” and “authorship”, the experience of time and temporality after the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.

It brought invaluable contributions to the teaching of colonial letters, from different authors of Brazilian literature, other literatures and modern arts; for historiography, theory and literary criticism of the present. In the classroom, he conquered everyone with his sophisticated simplicity, with humor and irony, with an intellectual gift that spared no effort and with a keen sense of the constant transience and diversity of historical times. Added to these and many other contributions is his deep and rigorous clash with contemporary Brazilian culture and politics.

*Cilaine Alves Cunha is a professor of Brazilian literature at FFLCH-USP. She is the author, among other books, of The beautiful and the misshapen: Álvares de Azevedo and romantic irony (edusp).


HANSEN, Joao Adolfo. AXNUMXth-century sharpness and other essays. Org. CUNHA, Cilaine. LAUDANNA, Mayra. São Paulo: Edusp, 2019. Mário de Andrade Award, from the National Library Foundation.

__________. Meeting, organization and literary studies, together with Marcello Moreira, from Gregory of Matos. Attributed poems. Codex Asensio-Cunha. Belo Horizonte: Autêntica Editora, 2013, 5 vols. Critics' Grand Prize, Paulista Association of Art Critics, 2014.

__________. Satire and the Engenho: Gregório de Matos and Bahia in the XNUMXth Century. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1989. Jabuti Literary Studies Prize, 1990.

__________. Drummond and the Useless Book. Rio de Janeiro/ Copenhagen: Small Library of Essays, 2020.

__________. What is a book? São Paulo: SESC-SP, 2013.

__________. Allegory. Construction and interpretation of the metaphor. São Paulo/Campinas: Hedra/Editora Unicamp, 2006.

__________. Solombra or The shadow that falls on the self. So Paulo: Hedra, 2005.

__________. Satire and wit. Gregório de Matos and Bahia in the XNUMXth century. Cotia/ Campinas: Ateliê Editorial/ Editora da UNICAMP, 2004.

__________. The O. The fiction of literature in Great hinterland: footpaths. So Paulo: Hedra, 2000.

__________. Carlos Bracher. From soul mining🇧🇷 São Paulo: Edusp, 1998.


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