Elizabeth Bishop and Brazil

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2014-08

Authors

Goudeau, Jessica Reese

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Abstract

Elizabeth Bishop's phenomenal rise in the academic canon is due in large part to the way her writings about Brazil correlate with current critical concerns. However, U.S. scholars have relied on an inchoate understanding of Bishop's sociohistorical contexts as she performed complicated and at times contradictory Brazil(s). Using Yi-Fu Tuan's methodology of space and place and James Clifford's dichotomy of routes/roots, I delineate between four discrete Brazil(s) in Bishop's texts. Shifts between these Brazil(s) are predicated on changes in Bishop's relationship with her Brazilian partner, Lota Macedo de Soares. I explore the eleven poems of the "Brazil" section of Questions of Travel and "Crusoe in England," as well as the introductions and translations she worked on contemporaneously. Bishop's tourist poems examine the tension between her expectations of the banana-ized Brazil of the popular Carmen Miranda movies, and the reality that she discovered as she moves from a tourist-voyeur to a rooted expatriate. In her Samambaia poems, she writes from the position of insider/partner about the subaltern public sphere that Lota has created at her farm outside of Rio de Janeiro. The volatility of the Brazilian political situation, which Bishop blamed for the dissolution of her relationship with Lota, led Bishop to define the primitive aspects of Brazil that Lota disdained. Finally, I argue that her translation strategies as she writes about Brazil after Lota's death in 1967 are a nostalgic return to her earliest views of Brazil.

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