Brazilian Academy of Letters

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Brazilian Academy of Letters

Brazilian Academy of Letters, a Brazilian equivalent of the French Academy, founded in 1897. The academy's rules and rites reflected the centrality of French models for almost all formal cultural expression in nineteenth-century Brazil after the French Artistic Mission (1816). Its purpose was to celebrate earlier Brazilian literature and to promote present literary effort and literati as respectable and necessary constituents of society at a time when Brazil was perceived to be undergoing national regeneration. Founders of the academy included leading figures in the abolition movement (1888) and militants of the Republic (1889). Many were veterans of the era's new, mass-circulation periodicals; many, like other members of the social and political elites, were liberal professionals who cultivated belles lettres in their youth and leisure.

Unlike Joaquim Nabuco, better known as a celebrated abolitionist, most founders were contemporary literati who have since fallen into relative obscurity: like Coelho Neto, Olavo Bilac, José Veríssimo, Silvio Romero, and the Viscount de Taunay. However, there is one significant exception. The Forty Immortals were presided over by Machado De Assis, Brazil's preeminent novelist, who devoted his last years to the academy's survival. Early on, the ideal of literary integrity was challenged by the desire to cultivate public support through the inclusion of key public figures, a tendency that triumphed in that first generation. The goal of securing a place in the nation's establishment was thus satisfied, although many continue to despair at the cost.

See alsoLiterature: Brazil .


Josué Montello, O presidente Machado de Assis (1961).

João Alexandre Barbosa, A tradição do impasse (1974).

Nicolau Sevcenko, Literatura como missão (1983).

Jeffrey D. Needell, A Tropical Belle Époque, chap. 6 (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Graham, Richard. Machado de Assis: Reflections on a Brazilian Master Writer. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999.

Trigo, Luciano and Aldo Arantes. O viajante imóvel: Machado de Assis e o Rio de Janeiro de seu tempo. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 2001.

                                  Jeffrey D. Needell

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Brazilian Academy of Letters

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