Machado de Assis cover
Machado de Assis
Toward a Poetics of Emulation
This book offers an alternative explanation for one of the core dilemmas of Brazilian literary criticism: the “midlife crisis” Machado de Assis underwent from 1878 to 1880, the result of which was the writing of The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, as well as the remarkable production of his mature years—with an emphasis on his masterpiece, Dom Casmurro.

At the center of this alternative explanation, Castro Rocha situates the fallout from the success enjoyed by Eça de Queirós with the publication of Cousin Basílio and Machado’s two long texts condemning the author and his work. Literary and aesthetic rivalries come to the fore, allowing for a new theoretical framework based on a literary appropriation of “thick description,” the method proposed by anthropologist Clifford Geertz. From this method, Castro Rocha derives his key hypothesis: an unforeseen consequence of Machado’s reaction to Eça’s novel was a return to the classical notion of aemulatio, which led Machado to develop a “poetics of emulation.”
Publication Date: October 1st, 2015
308 pages| 6 in x 9 in
Early Praise

“Acute, captivating, beautifully written and translated, this is a masterful reinterpretation of one of the world’s greatest novelists. By subtle close reading and a groundbreaking, innovative approach, João Cezar de Castro Rocha unfolds in front of our eyes the subtle, ramified, mimetic complexity of Machado de Assis’s genius, along with the anxieties of its formation. This will be a point of reference for any future study of the author of The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas.”
Pierpaolo Antonello, University of Cambridge

“João Cezar de Castro Rocha’s Machado de Assis marks an important threshold in the history of South American intellectuals searching for a both appropriate and complex relation with their literary classics. After seeing them, at first exclusively from the perspective of the cultures held to be ‘hegemonic,’ and later claiming, as if in an oedipal reaction, their absolute independence and power of innovation, the time for a new serenity seems to have arrived. By elaborating how Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis developed his novels in constant emulation of a number of European models, de Castro Rocha succeeds in finding a place for the most canonized Brazilian author within a world-literary horizon—and adds to his aesthetic fascination.”
Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Albert Guérard Professor in Literature, Stanford University

“In his brilliant panoramic account of how an initially modest young writer became the Machado de Assis enshrined at the base of the tree of modern Brazilian literary history, João Cezar de Castro Rocha explores the generative acts of borrowing and burial that gave rise to masterpieces like The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas. Here Machado is neither reduced to his context and circumstances nor hoisted into the thin air of a temporal genius. Rather, in Toward A Poetics of Emulation Machado hovers elusively and immanently within a literary universe of his own creation, thickly described in all its delicate textures as well as tears.”
Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Faculty Director, metaLAB, Harvard

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