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Translating Brazil: From Transnational Periodicals to Hemispheric Fictions, 1808-2010


This dissertation analyzes how travel and translation informed the construction of Brazil as modern in the 19th century, and how similar processes of transnational translation continue to shape the cultural visibility of the nation abroad in the contemporary moment. By reading journals, literary works, and cultural criticism, this study inserts Brazilian literature and culture into recent debates about translatability, world literature, and cosmopolitanism, while also underscoring the often-overlooked presence of Brazilians in the United States. The first half of the dissertation contends that Portuguese-language periodicals Correio Braziliense (London, 1808-1822), Revista Nitheroy (Paris, 1836), and O Novo Mundo (New York, 1870-1879) translated European and North American ideas of technology and education to a readership primarily in Brazil. The transnational circulation of these periodicals contributed to the self-fashioning of intellectuals who came to define the nation. To suggest parallels between Brazil and the United States in the late 19th century, the analysis of O Novo Mundo focuses on discourses of nation, modernity, and technological progress emerging in the hemispheric travels of scientists, intellectuals, and the Brazilian empire Dom Pedro II, and in the national displays at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

The second half of the dissertation proposes a counterpoint to the 19th century by analyzing literature, cultural criticism, and art from the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The national coexists with the transnational in both historical periods as Brazilian intellectuals and artists look beyond Brazil in order to refine their definitions of the nation as modern. Contemporary writers like Silviano Santiago and Adriana Lisboa find themselves at home not in Brazil, but rather within the translation zones of the Americas. For Santiago, translating French theory to the Latin American context informs his concept of the space in-between, which in turn manifests itself in his fiction about Brazilians in the United States. This analysis examines how Santiago and Lisboa develop translational aesthetics in their narratives through code switching and cultural references in order to better capture the displacement experienced by their transnational characters. The relative success in translation of Lisboa’s tales of immigrant lives suggests a preference for translatability in the global literary market. The dissertation concludes by arguing that Nuno Ramos represents an alternative mode for artistic visibility beyond Brazil as a translator between genres and media whose work contests assumptions of translatability

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