Gender Discourse and Desire in the 20th Century Brazilian Womens' Literature (Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures, V. 29)

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9781557533524: Gender Discourse and Desire in the 20th Century Brazilian Womens' Literature (Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures, V. 29)

This study by Cristina Ferreira-Pinto explores the poetic and narrative strategies twentieth-century Brazilian women writers use to achieve new forms of representation of the female body, sexuality, and desire. Female writers discussed include: Gilka Machado, Lygia Fagundes Telles, Marcia Denser, and Marina Colasanti. While creating new forms, these writers are also deconstructing cultural myths of femininity and female behavior. In order to understand these myths, the book also presents new readings of some male-authored canonical novels by Jose de Alencar, Machado de Assis, Manuel Antonio de Almeida, and Aluisio Azevedo. The specific focus on female sexuality and desire acknowledges the intrinsic link between sexuality and an individual's sense of identity, and its importance for female identity, given the historical repression of women's bodies and the double standard of morality still pervasive in many Western cultures. In the discussion of the strategies Brazilian female poets and fiction writers employ, Ferreira-Pinto addresses some social and cultural issues that relate to a woman's sense of her own body and sexuality: the characterization of women based on racial features and class hierarchy; marriage; motherhood; the silencing of the lesbian subject; and aging. Ferreira-Pinto's analysis is informed by the works of various and diverse critics and theoreticians, among them Helene Cixous, Teresa De Lauretis, Adrienne Rich, Gloria Anzaldua, Georges Bataille, and Wilhelm Reich.

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Ferreira-Pinto, Cristina. Gender, Discourse and Desire in Twentieth-Century Brazilian Women's Literature. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue UP, 2004. 208 pp. Ferreira-Pinto's study of gender, discourse and desire in Brazilian women's narrative sheds light on the challenges creative writers of the twentieth century have encountered in their attempts to articulate a female erotic voice free from the restrictions imposed by phallocratic ideology. The author begins with an introduction to the aesthetic, creative and cultural considerations female poets and fiction writers have employed as they approached new forms of representation [End Page 229] of the female body, sexuality, and desire. In Chapter One, Ferreira-Pinto turns back in time to the nineteenth century to examine how male canonical writers José de Alencar, Manuel Antônio de Almeida, Aluisio Azevedo and Machado de Assis reinforced fixed gender identities for women. The works of the masters, which portray women as the sensual mulatto, the seductress, the pure married woman, or the perverted, sexually frustrated lesbian, served as a departure point for contemporary women writers to respond to these myths of a feminine ideal. Thus, Ferreira-Pinto casts the project of twentieth-century women writers as an exploration into the possibility of the existence of a social and psychological reality for women that might result in empowerment, sexual fulfillment and agency. Ferreira-Pinto's definition of eroticism in the second chapter shares commonalities with feminist thinkers Susan Griffin, Audre Lorde, Rosalind Coward and others who view the erotic as an aesthetic endeavor that privileges a mutually consensual exchange between equals, regardless of sexual preference, while the pornographic is seen as the depiction of domination of one subject by another (160). Although revisionist critics acknowledge that Gilka Machado's erotic poetry of the early twentieth century set the stage for the development of a gynocentric erotic discourse, Ferreira-Pinto's textual readings of the works of Lygia Fagundes Telles, Clarice Lispector, Sonia Coutinho, Marcia Denser, Lya Luft, Marina Colasanti, Myriam Campello, Marilene Felinto, Helena Parente Cunha and others in the following four chapters demonstrate that most twentieth century women writers were ultimately unsuccessful in disassociating the heterosexual act from a heterosexually hierarchical ideology that privileges male desire. Chapter Three examines the use of the gothic genre, the fantastic mode and the grotesque as vehicles to denounce the failure of traditional logic and the incongruities of the dominant value system. Lya Luft and Lygia Fagundes Telles, in particular, explore the fragmentation of female subjectivity within traditional patriarchal society and, given the social and political turmoil of the 1970s and 80s, establish the need for more flexible forms of self-realization for women. The link between age and the grotesque, introduced by Telles in As horas nuas, is taken up in full force in Chapter Four where Ferreira-Pinto proffers an engaging analysis of Sonia Coutinho's middle-aged female characters. Displaced from the center of masculinist culture, Coutinho employs the grotesque to problematize aging as a social construct. Her self-indulgent female bodies struggle with the process of identity reformulation but eventually their self-knowledge leads to empowerment and erotic fulfillment, whether heterosexual or lesbian in nature. Chapter Five focuses on the theme of lesbian desire and the corresponding issues of censorship and self-censorship introduced in Gilka Machado's poetry and the understudied novel Vertigem (1926) by Laura Villares.Ferreira-Pinto's discussion of subsequent explorations of lesbian themes in later decades leads her to Lygia Fagundes Telles, Edla Van Steen, Myriam Campello, Sonia [End Page 230] Coutinho and Marcia Denser. By abandoning the dictates of the dominant gender system, a significant number of characters from the pages of this group of writers find ways to exercise their subjectivity outside the limits of masculinist desire. Reinforcing lesbian desire as a locus that opens up the possibility of affirming women's sexual, psychological and emotional pleasure, the architects of these fictional characters effect a powerful critique of hierarchical heterosexual relationships. Chapter Six explores how female agency and heterosexuality can, ultimately, come together to create a queer stance that serves as an equally effective critique of hierarchical heterosexuality. Here the departure point is Denser's short fiction, which successfully problematizes the possibility of meaningful female agency within phallocentric ideology. Finally, Ferreira-Pinto turns to Marina Colasanti's erotic poetry with its articulation of a self-assured poetic voice that affirms the possibility of self-expression and fulfillment within heterosexual parameters. Her incisive discussion of lesbian desire and her position regarding the real possibility of an authentic female erotic space within heterosexual ideology brings Ferreira-Pinto's discussion of the female erotic up to the beginning of a new millennium. Today, Brazilian women herald the strength of the legacy of women's writing of the past century in the ways they demonstrate greater comfort with their bodies, sexuality and desire (163). Ferreira-Pinto has given us a perceptive, thoughtful and innovative discussion of the female erotic in contemporary Brazilian women's writing.While some of the authors included in this study have been translated into English, others have received insufficient critical attention in the English-speaking world. Overall, this volume succeeds in addressing the urgent need for English language material on some of Brazil's best writers of the twentieth century while providing a captivating treatment of a wide range of gender-related discursive issues. Finally, the author's skill in integrating theoretical paradigms into her discussion without rendering the text inaccessible results in a dynamic discussion suitable for classroom use at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

 

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Ferreira-Pinto, Cristina
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Ferreira-Pinto, Cristina/ Pinto, Cristina Ferreira
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