The dialectic of the marvelous : Graça Aranha's fictional philosophizing




Destafney, John Watford

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This essay considers the relationship between the creative and philosophical writings of Graça Aranha, in part as response to the critical tendency to exclude the majority of his works when analyzing his oeuvre. Aranha’s major work of philosophy, The Aesthetic of Life, proclaims that aesthetic experience is the “basis of perfection”: the solution the alienation initiated by the duality of consciousness. Yet, the aestheticism of his philosophical treatise is ruthlessly tested through the dramatic embodiment found in his three works of fiction: Canaan (novel), Malazarte (play), The Marvelous Journey (novel). Aranha’s interest in philosophical dialectic is manifested most effectively in the drama of ideas which runs through his fiction. Consequently, Aranha’s works should be evaluated and explicated with attention to the ways in which they comment on each other. In particular, the fictional works suggest a negative aspect to Aranha’s aesthetic concept of the marvelous. The three creative works employ and anticipate ideas found in Psychoanalytic theory, Marxist theory, and Existentialism in order to illustrate that the marvelous experience is a kind of death of the subject. Additionally, this essay contributes to the critical dialogue over Aranha’s place in or outside of Brazilian modernism. The representation of Brazilian dance and ritual found in the two novels are explored as a noteworthy modernist approach to the questions of cultural and aesthetic decadence that influenced the modernist period in both Europe and Brazil.



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