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Machado de Assis, the Brazilian Pyrrhonian

by José Raimundo Maia Neto

Publication Year: 1994

Machado de Assis (1839-1908) is Brazil's greatest writer and the most important Latin American writer of the nineteenth century. His subtle criticism of cherished institutions is evident to all readers, and critics have often mentioned his skepticism. In Machado de Assis, the Brazilian Pyrrhonian, however, a philosopher seriously examines Machado's philosophical position for the first time. Jose' Raimundo Maia Neto traces Machado's particular brand of skepticism to that of the ancient philosopher Pyrrho of Elis and reveals the sources through which he inherited that line of thought. He then shows how Machado's own philosophical development follows the stages proposed by Pyrrho for the development of a skeptical worldview.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures

Title Page, Copyright, List of Editors, Dedication, Epigraph

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pp. i-vii


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pp. ix-x

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908) wrote novels and short stories which-once philosophically analyzed reveal a remarkable and original skeptical perspective. This perspective makes Machado the only Brazilian author who deserves a place in the history of the skeptical tradition. The defense of Machado's right to be included among the great...

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pp. 1-17

This is not the first study to examine the skepticism exhibited in the fiction of Machado de Assis.1 It is, however, the first in which Machado's skepticism is identified as belonging to the Pyrrhonian tradition. This tradition originates with Pyrrho of Elis (from around 365 to 275 BC), flourishes from the first century BC to the third AD, and revives in the Renaissance...

Part 1 Machado's First Phase (1861 to 1878)

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Chapter One: An Essay of 1861 and the Short Stories from 1862 to 1871

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pp. 21-38

In his first published work, Machado de Assis introduces two life-views in rudimentary form: the naive and the strategic. "Queda que as mulheres tern para os tolos" ("Women's preference for tolos") is an essay, not a novel. The essay form allows Machado to characterize these two life-views directly and...

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Chapter Two: The Short Stories and First Novels from 1872 to 1878

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pp. 39-53

The view of social life present in Machado's fiction from 1872 to 1878 is not essentially different from that of the 1861-71 period. However, a decisive change occurs in his view of marriage. Domestic peace becomes fragile, far more vulnerable to the duplicitous and changeable outward life. Likewise, female characters who are oriented to social life are more elaborated...

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Chapter Three: Problematic Characters: The Skeptic's Ancestors

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pp. 55-67

The homens de espirito are the earliest ancestors of the skeptics in Machado's fiction. Four major features distinguish them from the tolos: (1) they are removed from women, i.e., social life; (2) their precarious condition is a result of the first feature; (3) their uniqueness is in contrast with the homogeneity of the tolos, i.e., they are individuals instead of social persona; and...

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Chapter Four: The Revised Short Stories: Adjusting the Narrative to the Skeptical Point of View

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pp. 69-75

Machado de Assis is a master of the short story. He wrote a very large number of them, mostly under his own name, but many especially the less elaborated early ones-under pseudonyms. The short stories served as a kind of laboratory in which he sketched and experimented with forms, themes, and characters. This procedure is most clearly seen in some short stories that...

Part 2 Machado's Second Phase (1879 to 1908)

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Chapter Five: Epitaph of a Small Winner

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pp. 79-123

The analysis presented in Chapter Four showed that the key element in the short stories that Machado de Assis revised for second publication is a search for a point of view appropriate for exhibiting a reflective dimension. Similarly, in Epitaph Machado has Bras Cubas take a point of view that is the solution for the problematic situation of the homem de esprito. At

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Chapter Six: Dom Casmurro

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pp. 125-157

Pascal says that the imagination is "all the more deceptive for not being invariably so; for it would be an infallible criterion of truth if it were infallibly that of lies" (La 44). This deceptive feature of the imagination is crucial in Dom Casmurro. In the Machadian fiction up to and including Epitaph, social appearances are infallible criteria of lies, the disguise of vicious...

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Chapter Seven: Counselor Aires and His "Memorial"

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pp. 159-190

Jose da Costa Marcondes Aires, Counselor Aires, is the third and last character of Machado's novels that exhibits the skeptical life-view. He is the fictional author of and a central character in Machado de Assis's last two novels: Esau e Jaco (Esau and Jacob) of 1904 and Memorial de Aires (Counselor Ayres' Memorial) of 1908. In Aires, the definition and elaboration of...

Appendix: English Translations

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pp. 191-211


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pp. 213-220

Works Cited

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pp. 221-224


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pp. 225-231

E-ISBN-13: 9781612490946
E-ISBN-10: 1612490948
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557530516
Print-ISBN-10: 1557530513

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 1994

Series Title: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures