Alencar, José Martiniano de (1829–1877)

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Alencar, José Martiniano de (1829–1877)

José Martiniano de Alencar (b. 1 May 1829; d. 12 December 1877), Brazilian writer, playwright, poet, and statesman. He was born in Messajana, state of Ceará, in northern Brazil. In 1850 he graduated from law school and founded the academic journal Ensaios Literários, of which he was the editor. Between 1851 and 1855, Alencar contributed to Ensaios Literários and other academic journals and also worked as a journalist on several daily newspapers. Most of his political career occurred between 1859 and 1877.

Alencar is considered to be one of the founders of Brazilian narrative writing. He cultivated Indianist and urban novels and introduced some of the most significant techniques observed in the Latin American narrative. As a romantic writer and an artist, he sought to underscore nationalistic themes and undermine Eurocentric aesthetics, which were so prevalent at the time. Before Alencar, Brazilian letters were characterized by Gongoristic classicism, which also dominated Portuguese literature. In all of his work, Alencar demonstrated an acute concern for language and the establishment of a true Brazilian linguistic expression, one devoid of all Portuguese influence.

Some of his most significant works are O marquês de Paraná (1856), an autobiographical piece; O guarani (1857), an interpretation of Brazilian colonial history in which he depicts the relationship between native Brazilians and the Portuguese colonizers; O demônio familiar (1857), a two-act comedy; A noite de São João (1857), a musical comedy, with music by Elias Lobo; As asas de um anjo (1860), a comedy in one prologue, four acts, and one epilogue. His novel Lucíola was first published in Paris in 1862. As minas de prata (1862, 1865–1866) is another historical novel.

The novel Iracema (1865), subtitled by Alencar "the myth of Ceará," is considered to be his chief work. Its leitmotiv is the beauty of Brazil. It is seen as the most nationalistic of his books, a work that has merited translations in several languages and is acclaimed as one of the world's most important classics of romantic literature. Alencar's narrative displays the Portuguese language as it was spoken in the Americas, with its own dynamic linguistic expressions, and with creative images and symbols that capture in great detail the unique beauty of Brazil. It is a romantic love story between an Indian princess, Iracema, and the white Martim; from their love is born Moacyr, whose name means "the son of pain." Iracema is also considered to be the first heroine of the Brazilian novel, for her death is depicted in the narrative as the sacrifice of her love for Martim. Alencar died in Rio de Janeiro.

See alsoLiterature: Brazil .


Claude Hulet, Brazilian Literature, vol. 1 (1974).

Academia Cearense De Letras, Alencar 100 anos depois (1977).

Assis Brasil, O livro de ouro da literatura brasileira (1980).

Renata Mautner Wasserman, "Re-Inventing the New World; Cooper and Alencar," in Comparative Literature 36 (1984): 130-152.

María Tai Wolff, "Rereading José de Alencar: the Case of A Pata da Gazela," in Hispania 71 (December 1988): 812-819.

Laura Lynn Franklin, "Indianism in Atala of Chateaubriand and Iracema of José de Alencar: A Reappraisal" (Ph.D. diss., George Washington University, 1989).

Gustavo Pérez Firmat, Do the Americas Have a Common Literature? (1990), esp. p. 394.

Additional Bibliography

Rodrigues, Antonio Edmilson Martins. José de Alencar: O poeta armado do século XIX. Rio de Janeiro: Editora FGV, 2001.

                            RosÂngela Maria Vieira