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Consuming Visions

Cinema, Writing, and Modernity in Rio de Janeiro

Maite Conde

Publication Year: 2011

Consuming Visions explores the relationship between cinema and writing in early twentieth-century Brazil, focusing on how the new and foreign medium of film was consumed by a literary society in the throes of modernization. Maite Conde places this relationship in the specific context of turn-of-the-century Rio de Janeiro, which underwent a radical transformation to a modern global city, becoming a concrete symbol of the country's broader processes of change and modernization. Analyzing an array of literary texts, from journalistic essays and popular women's novels to anarchist treatises and vaudeville plays, the author shows how the writers' encounters with the cinema were consistent with the significant changes taking place in the city.

The arrival and initial development of the cinema in Brazil were part of the new urban landscape in which early Brazilian movies not only articulated the processes of the city's modernization but also enabled new urban spectators—women, immigrants, a new working class, and a recently liberated slave population—to see, believe in, and participate in its future. In the process, these early movies challenged the power of the written word and of Brazilian writers, threatening the hegemonic function of writing that had traditionally forged the contours of the nation's cultural life. An emerging market of consumers of the new cultural phenomena—popular theater, the department store, the factory, illustrated magazines—reflected changes that not only modernized literary production but also altered the very life and everyday urban experiences of the population. Consuming Visions is an ambitious and engaging examination of the ways in which mass culture can become an agent of intellectual and aesthetic transformation.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

Over the past few years and in several places many people and institutions have helped to produce this book. Randal Johnson, Adriana Bergero, José Moya, and Elizabeth Marchant were invaluable readers during the early stages...

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pp. 1-17

It is 1923, and the Brazilian author Monteiro Lobato sits down to write a novel. The novel Lobato has planned is to be written “in an old-fashioned style” (219). Adopting formulas from the consecrated national writers José de Alencar and...

Part One: Writers, Film, and the New Visual Landscape of Rio de Janeiro

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pp. 19-86

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1. Documenting New Urban Experiences: The Cinematic Work of the Crônica

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pp. 21-49

Brazilian writers’ first encounter with film took place in the daily press. Between 1900 and 1910 a number of authors mentioned the arrival and dissemination of what was then called the cinematograph in journalistic essays or...

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2. Comic Visions of the New City: Writers and Film Production during the Belle Époque of Brazilian Cinema

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pp. 50-86

By the time Bilac and João do Rio were documenting their experiences of the movies, a few Brazilian writers had started to take a more active interest in the cinema, participating in the actual production of films and contributing to the period subsequently named...

Part Two: Writers, Film, and Alternative Visions of Rio de Janeiro

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p. 87

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3. Envisioning a New Political Landscape: Martin Fontes’s Anarchist Flirtation with Film

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pp. 89-124

The appearance of publications like Careta testifies to a greater politicization of Brazilian popular and mass culture at the start of the twentieth century. Politics was no longer restricted to a few men who discussed government affairs behind closed...

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4. Women, Rio’s Modernity, and Film’s Visual Pleasures: Benjamin Costallat’s Mademoiselle Cinema

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pp. 125-175

The postwar years saw a new development in Brazilian writers’ encounter with film. Authors had previously engaged with the medium in nonliterary texts, documenting the movies impact on society in journalistic works or penning...

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Conclusion: Reviving the Lettered City

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pp. 177-180

By the time Benjamin Costallat had published his scandalous novel, other writers in Brazil were drawn to film in different ways, establishing a critical dialogue with the medium to elaborate a new kind of cinematic...

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Appendix 1: “Contemporary Illness,” by Olavo Bilac

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pp. 181-184

I am writing this crônica having just returned from a long journey. I am exhausted. My back and legs ache. My eyes are sore after having seen so many things; my brain hurts after having thought about so many things...

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Appendix 2: “Cinematographer of Letters,” by João do Rio

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pp. 185-187

One film, another film, one more film . . . Dissatisfied with the first one? Onto the next one. Dissatisfied with the second? Then onto the next. There are comedies, serious films, sad films, lighthearted films, morbid films, happy...

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Appendix 3: “The Rush to Get Things Done,” by João do Rio

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pp. 188-191

Everyone around the world is suffering from an unmistakable and painful illness:—the rush to get things done. Our grandparents never rushed. On the contrary, postponing and extending events was an utmost delight for them...

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Appendix 4: “Sacrilege,” by Olavo Bilac

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pp. 192-193

People have recently discovered disadvantages to the movies. Doctors may invent few effective remedies, however, they are inventive geniuses when it comes to discovering illnesses. God almighty! Today everything is harmful...

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Appendix 5: “Screenplay for a Fantastic film— A Super Production. The Greatest Man of All Humankind The Story of the Life of Peter Kropotkin. An Epic in Three Parts” by Martins Fontes

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pp. 194-195

The sound of the Tsar Khrani is heard. Masked ball at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Celebration of spring. Blessing of the Neva River. Midnight. Fantastic illumination over the City of the Tsars. Pomp and ceremony. The Russian Court in grand uniforms...

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Appendix 6: “Love and Cinema,” by Lima Barreto

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pp. 196-197

I have a great respect for the legal, administrative and police actions that have attempted, directly and indirectly, to civilize our society. We have seen how this worked with gambling. Its censure by our present and past laws has nevertheless not impeded the fact...


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pp. 199-207


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pp. 209-219


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pp. 221-223


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pp. 225-227

E-ISBN-13: 9780813932194
E-ISBN-10: 081393219X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813932149
Print-ISBN-10: 0813932130

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 17 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 797171658
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Consuming Visions

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Motion pictures -- Brazil -- History -- 20th century.
  • Motion pictures and literature -- Brazil.
  • Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) -- In motion pictures.
  • Brazilian literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) -- In literature.
  • Motion pictures in literature.
  • Modernism (Literature) -- Brazil.
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