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Autobiography and national identity in the 19th century: a comparison between Hispanic America and Brazil

Grant number: 08/01422-8
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctoral
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2008
Effective date (End): July 31, 2009
Field of knowledge:Humanities - History - Modern and Contemporary History
Principal Investigator:Maria Stella Martins Bresciani
Grantee:Michelle Schreiner Lima
Host Institution: Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas (IFCH). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil


The post-doctoral study I am proposing attempts to contrast autobiographies of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and José de Alencar, with the objective of reflecting on significance of this literary genre on the process of formation of Argentinean and Brazilian national identities in the 19th century. A comparative analysis of the autobiographies "Como e porque sou romancista" (José de Alencar, 1873), "Mi defensa" and "Recuerdos de provincia" (Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, 1843 and 1850 respectively), as well as other studies of the works of these authors, allow us to study fundamental questions pertaining to the understanding of intellectual and cultural lives in the 19th century: the construction of nations; the social function of the autobiography in Latin America, primarily in the post colonial period; the role of literature in the formation of the people/nation; the defining lines between literature and history in these autobiographical works. According to some writers, such as Sylvia Molloy, although the Argentinean author is a classic example, other Hispanic writers resorted to their memories and life experiences to narrate the history of new peoples and nations in formation. However, if the evocation of the homeland's images related to the author's personal history of life abounds in the Spanish American post colonial period, it is almost nonexistent in Brazil. The search for a national identity has been presented in Brazilian literature since its political independence in 1822, but autobiography had not been used for the construction of history and national memory of this country. The hypothesis to be investigated in the post-doctoral study is that José de Alencar, as most Brazilian literary writers of his period, does not recognize himself in typical national characters, such as the Indian or the inhabitant of the backwoods, which he helped to build as symbols of the Brazilian nationality. (AU)

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