A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism

Machado de Assis

A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: Published: December 2001

Author: Roberto Schwarz

Translator: John Gledson

Contributor: John Gledson

Latin American Studies > Brazil, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism is a translation (from the original Portuguese) of Roberto Schwarz’s renowned study of the work of Brazilian novelist Machado de Assis (1839–1908). A leading Brazilian theorist and author of the highly influential notion of “misplaced ideas,” Schwarz focuses his literary and cultural analysis on Machado’s The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, which was published in 1880. Writing in the Marxist tradition, Schwarz investigates in particular how social structure gets internalized as literary form, arguing that Machado’s style replicates and reveals the deeply embedded class divisions of nineteenth-century Brazil.
Widely acknowledged as the most important novelist to have written in Latin America before 1940, Machado had a surprisingly modern style. Schwarz notes that the unprecedented wit, sarcasm, structural inventiveness, and mercurial changes of tone and subject matter found in The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas marked a crucial moment in the history of Latin American literature. He argues that Machado’s vanguard narrative reflects the Brazilian owner class and its peculiar status in both national and international contexts, and shows why this novel’s success was no accident. The author was able to confront some of the most prestigious ideologies of the nineteenth century with some uncomfortable truths, not the least of which was that slavery remained the basis of the Brazilian economy.
A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism will appeal to those with interests in Latin American literature, nineteenth century history, and Marxist literary theory.


“[P]ersuasive. . . lucid and passionate critical writing. . . .” — Michael Wood , New York Review of Books

“A brilliant and penetrating analysis of Machado’s Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas. This is the kind of reading that transforms one’s understanding of the novel. After reading Schwarz, it is impossible to see Machado in the same light as before. Exemplary of what literary analysis can and should be, this seminal study transcends its focus on Brazilian literature and becomes a model for literary critics. “ — Randal Johnson, University of California, Los Angeles

“This is a masterpiece of criticism. The coherence of Schwarz’s perspective and the clarity with which he elaborates the economic and cultural insights that form his dialectical approach to literature make his study a paradigmatic one for theoretical enterprise. By concentrating his interpretive talents on Machado’s style, Schwarz also illuminates a question that has puzzled many present Machado readers: Why do we find him so satisfylingly contemporary?” — Leslie Damasceno, Duke University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Roberto Schwarz, one of Brazil’s foremost literary and cultural critics, is the author of Misplaced Ideas: Essays on Brazilian Culture and Duas Meninas. John Gledson is Emeritus Professor of Brazilian Studies at the University of Liverpool. He is the author of two books about Machado de Assis and was the translator of Misplaced Ideas, the only other English translation of a work by Schwarz.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction / John Gledson


1. Initial Observations

2. A Formal Principle

3. The Practical Matrix

4. Some Implications of the Prose

5. The Social Aspect of the Narrator and the Plot

6. The Fate of the Poor

7. The Rich on Their Own

8. The Role of Ideas

9. Questions of Form

10. Literary Accumulation in a Periferal Country




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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2239-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2210-8
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