Stone, Penha, cliff – the invention of Brazilian Arcadism

Paul Klee, The Sea Behind the Dunes, 1923.


Excerpt, selected by the author, from the newly released book

In 1995, Jorge Antonio Ruedas de la Serna (1945-2018) questioned the lesser interest of Brazilian scholars in approaching the lyrics produced during the so-called Arcadism. For the Mexican researcher, this was due to the fact that the poetry of that period carried stylistic and political ambiguity (in adherence to the hypothesis formulated by Antonio Candido in Formation of Brazilian Literature, in 1959).

Be that as it may, in the year following the publication of Arcadia: tradition and change, Ivan Teixeira proposed to address synchronic and diachronic aspects of Arcadian poetry, with an emphasis on the production of Basílio da Gama. In 1997, Joaci Pereira Furtado questioned the use of imprecise terms in Brazilian literature manuals, which had consolidated the image that the literate men who occupied or passed through the villages of the captaincy of Minas Gerais had been awakened by nativist sentiment. Invented as poets endowed with genius, technical expertise was diluted in the ambivalent trajectory between courtly bureaucracy and versified denunciation.

The debate on courtly sociability and the role of letters as a component of ennobling figuration was taken up by historian Marco Antonio Silveira, who, in 1997, described the stratified composition of Vila Rica, where the effort to distinguish itself socially and politically would justify the commitment of graduates in installing themselves in a structure guided by countless codes, laws and precepts.

The following year, Perfecto Cuadrado published an extensive anthology (XNUMXth century Portuguese poetry) in which he also questioned the place of eighteenth-century poems in literary studies: “The eighteenth century has generally been poorly treated [sic] (and mistreated) by Portuguese historiography and literary criticism”. The compilation published in Galicia echoed the warning embedded in Ruedas de La Serna's thesis, in São Paulo.

Forty years after Formation of Brazilian Literature be published, Ivan Teixeira returned to the publishing scene with the impressive Pombaline Patronage and Neoclassical Poetry: decisive work to reevaluate the texts produced under the magnifying glass of the Inquisition, the power of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo and the precepts in force at the time.

In 2001, Alcir Pécora included the relevant chapter “Love for Convention”, around the poetry of Silva Alvarenga, in the collection Genre Machine. Two years passed, until the USP Magazine publish the dossier Brazil Colony, with numerous collaborations on so-called colonial matters, with emphasis on articles by Luciana Gama and Ricardo Martins Valle – this one, in the year before completing his doctoral thesis on the work of Cláudio Manuel da Costa.

It also dates back to 2003, These cliffs, book version of Sérgio Alcides' master's thesis defended in 1996, where he also warned about the risks of reading Cláudio Manuel da Costa's poems under the psychologizing magnifying glass, linked to mere personal subjectivity. In 2008, Djalma Espedito de Lima's dissertation, around the epic rich village, received the Capes award and was published as a book. Since then, it has become more difficult (if not embarrassing) to ignore or disregard studies related to poetry and the arts produced during the XNUMXth century, in the former State of Brazil.

More recently, mention should be made of the master's thesis (2017) and the doctoral thesis (2020) produced by Caio César Esteves de Souza, who discovered unpublished poems attributed to Alvarenga Peixoto; and the detailed analysis of the editions of Marilia de Dirceu, led by Heidi Strecker during her master's degree, completed in 2020.

In this essay, we discuss why the bucolic poems that circulated in the XNUMXth century came to be described and classified imprecisely in florilegios, collections and manuals of so-called Brazilian literature, written from the XNUMXth century onwards. To avoid anachronisms, we intend to place and characterize in a different way the poetry produced in the Portuguese-Brazilian universe, between the second half of the XNUMXth century and the first half of the XNUMXth century, which involves going through verses produced by numerous scholars who lived below and beyond sea ​​in that period.

To do this, collections of poetry produced during the XNUMXth century were consulted. To better discuss the matter, the work focused on two aspects: (i) Review of Portuguese-Brazilian “literary” historiography, especially that carried out in the country; (ii) Brief analysis of works produced in parts of the kingdom of Portugal, during the period.

Regarding the second item, it is worth warning by Evaldo Cabral de Mello (2002, p. 15), in An Immense Portugal, that “[In 1822,] the nationalists were not us, but the Portuguese of Portugal who, inside and outside the Courts of Lisbon, cried out against what seemed to them the scandalous reversal of roles through which Brazil had become the center of the Portuguese monarchy, relegating the metropolis to the position of a colony”.

Em Stone, Penha, cliff, the poetry attributed to the literate men of the XNUMXth century is considered as a text and pretext to illustrate the attempt to join the authorities (models taken from the Greco-Latin, medieval and modern tradition), and of course, discuss the uses of rhetoric and poetics in the verses produced, under the ecclesiastical tunic and the Royal mantle, recovering Ernst Kantorowicz's lesson on the temporal and king's spirit. Keep in mind the conventional and protocol character, applied to poems and the disguised performance of literate men,[I] during the period – which did not have a direct relationship with the “nativist” sense, nor did they involve “spontaneity”, the result of feelings “inspired” by local nature.

*Jean Pierre Chauvin Professor of Brazilian Culture and Literature at the School of Communication and Arts at USP. Author, among other books by Seven speeches: essays on discursive typologies (Editora Cancioneiro). [ ]


Jean-Pierre Chauvin. Pedra, Penha, Penhasco: the invention of Brazilian Arcadism,. São Paulo, Pedro & João Editores, 2023, 100 pages. Available here.


[I] When examining the poetry of Cláudio Manuel da Costa, Ricardo Martins Valle (USP Magazine, n. 57, 2003, p. 119) realized that “The fable invents the creation of a river, born from a stone, excavated from the earth, which will later sustain the care of the men present. The myth inflects two falls, his father's and his own, and three numbers act, as machina, about tragedy: Jupiter, Apollo and Love. For that civilization governed by royal ordinances, the powers of concert and confusion in the world were supported by the attributes of these three pagan deities which should serve as ornaments to the document of Claudius' verses”.

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