The Aeneid of Brazil : Caramuru (1781)
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This dissertation concerns the epic poem Caramuru (1781) by José de Santa Rita Durão. I propose both a post-nationalist or postcolonial reading of Caramuru, as well as a pre-nationalist or historical analysis. The first part of this dissertation focuses on the form itself, particularly the genre of epic poetry to which Caramuru belongs. The title of this dissertation references Virgil’s Aeneid, while the comparisons between this and other epics focus on the conventions of epic poetry, placing Caramuru within the context of other epic poems. Traditionally, and even recently, Caramuru has consistently been compared to Luis de Camões’ Os Lusíadas. I have tried to establish a closer connection with Virgil’s Aeneid, rather than Os Lusíadas, as the model epic for Caramuru. Chapter One focuses on the topic of imitation, specifically the many similarities with the plot of Virgil’s Aeneid. Chapter Two offers a historiographical approach to how the readings of colonial texts changed over time, including a historical background of Caramuru, which was written soon after the fall of the so-called enlightened despotism of Portugal under the Marques de Pombal. The second part of this dissertation is a close reading of the text itself, and focuses on the colonial discourse present in the poem. Chapter Three is an analysis of the religious discourse in Caramuru, which reflects the preoccupations of an Augustinian monk living in the Age of Enlightenment. Chapter Four concerns the representations of Amerindian resistance in the poem, particularly of two characters who belong to the insubordinate Caeté tribe. The last chapter focuses on the issue of gender and how women are represented in Caramuru. The main woman protagonist is a Tupinambá woman who becomes a prototype for Iracema, a well-known fictional character from nineteenth-century Brazil. Santa Rita Durão was born in Brazil but lived most of his adult life in Portugal, plus 15 years in Italy. He wrote that the motivation to write this poem was his ‘love of homeland’ or nationalist sentiment, even though the nation of Brazil was yet to exist at the time he wrote Caramuru.