Supplement to a superficial education : didacticism and performance in Júlia Lopes de Almeida's Livro das Noivas (1896)
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The most prolific woman writer of belle époque Brazil, Júlia Lopes de Almeida is remembered chiefly for her proto-feminist novels like A Falência (1901). This essay extends critical analysis to the heretofore overlooked Livro das Noivas (1896), a domestic manual once reprimanded by Jeffrey Needell as counterproductive to the feminist cause. With theoretical references to Genette, Agamben, Butler, Woolf, Ludmer, and others, it contextualizes Noivas within late 19th-century discourse on women’s education and the tradition of conduct literature, ultimately determining that Almeida subverts the conventions of the latter in defense of the former. Like João Luso, who declared Noivas a “curso” for soon-to-be-married women, this essay reads the book as a remedial addendum to the superficial education that left women unprepared to confront what Almeida and her liberal contemporaries deemed their responsibility to ensure the nation’s future by supplying it educated and healthy sons. In a deep analysis of the author’s extended dedication to her husband, Filinto, this essay moreover redresses Needell’s division of Noivas from Almeida’s novels. Rather than an aberration, the manual is a companion piece to the author’s fictional corpus. As a performative dissimulation of moral femininity, it compensates for Almeida’s unorthodox and, for the time, questionably “feminine” career.