This research critically investigates the notions of tradition and formation in Brazilian literature through examining representations of the sertão during the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on Vidas Secas by Graciliano Ramos. We intend to show how a return to Antonio Candido's idea of a formed tradition, coined in the 1950s, questions the period's criticism, as well as points to the momentum that united both literature and critique under the same desire: to traverse the country's lack towards a modulation of the idea of civilization. Literature's endeavor, observed by Candido when studying the 19th century's body of works, would have survived into the 20th century despite a drastic change in its functioning. As this endeavor penetrates the new century, the formative desire suffers an important change in its relations towards the social matter that it intends to transform: what the sertão represented to 19th century's literature - a strange object lying on civilization's far horizon - comes to the forefront of literary problems in the 20th century. This structural change would shake the very formative desire itself. Thus, we suggest the study of this unease in tradition as a key to understanding the aspirations of both critique and literature from the period. We also want to expand the comprehension of the core function the sertão has played inside the complex body of Brazilian literature.
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