“Not Reactionary, Just Late”: The Case for Ariano Suassuna as Brazilian Modernist

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Ariano Suassuna (b. 1927) is a controversial figure in contemporary Brazilian culture. His work as a playwright, poet, novelist, professor, and secretary of culture has established him as the voice of northeastern Brazil and a “warrior” in defense of Brazilian vernacular traditions. While critics have followed Suassuna's own lead in excluding his aesthetics and cultural politics from the multiple currents of Brazilian modernism, this essay argues for reconsideration of Suassuna as a late modernist. Specifically, it examines the temporal frameworks and valorizations Suassuna employs in his refashioning of folk traditions to categorize his work as an example of the primitivist strain in modernism. This approach allows for a better understanding of the critical role tradition plays within Brazilian modernism. More complexly, it also reveals the connection between the flaws inherent to the primitivist gesture and the tensions, contradictions, and imbalances within the wider experience of Brazilian modernity.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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