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Title: Versions of the Concrete: Brazilian Mid-Century Aesthetics (1945-1970)
Authors: Wolfson, Nathaniel Zlotkin
Advisors: Brodsky, Claudia
Meira Monteiro, Pedro
Contributors: Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures Department
Keywords: Brazil
Concrete Poetry
João Cabral de Melo Neto
Max Bense
Mira Schendel
Subjects: Latin American literature
Comparative literature
Latin American studies
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation explores Brazilian mid-century poetry and its theoretical contributions to contemporary debates on media, materiality and technology. It brings together canonical and lesser-known examples of “Concrete art” in order to consider how Brazil emerged as a space for artistic and theoretical experimentation in the post-World War II years. It emphasizes Brazil’s participation in global avant-garde networks of post-war artistic and intellectual exchanges, with Germany in particular, arguing against critical intepretations of Brazilian mid-century art as uncritical and mimetic of European traditions. To explore Brazilian Concrete poets’ contributions to contemporary scholarly debates concerning the relationship of literature to technology, this dissertation addresses how Brazilian poets critically responded to the increasing relevance of cybernetics and information theory to aesthetic production in the post-war years. In this way, this dissertation identifies within Brazilian mid-century poetry the theoretical production of a subtle distinction between innovation and reactionary techno-fetishism. “Versions of the Concrete” unfolds in three chapters, each corresponding to distinct yet related areas of analysis. Chapter One investigates the poet João Cabral de Melo Neto, locating the origins of the Concrete poetry movement and its theories of poetic materiality in Cabral’s critique of the materialism of the 19th century Recife School, a movement of legal and aesthetic thought that originated in the context of Recife’s School of Law. It argues that Cabral rejected the monistic materialism of the Recife School’s leading thinkers and consequently articulated a conflict at the heart of poetic representation: the incommensurability of the materiality of writing and material history. Chapter Two centers on the relationship between the Concrete poetry group Noigandres and the contemporaneous German poetic avant-garde, focusing on the exchange from 1959-1964 between paulista poet Haroldo de Campos and German poet and philosopher of technology Max Bense, who debated questions of semantics in poetry and the possibilities of computational production of art. Chapter Three explores the Swiss-born Brazilian visual artist Mira Schendel, whose three-dimensional poetic objects engaged a dialectic of legibility and illegibility. Schendel’s use of the material medium of transparency in her text-based work from this period challenged the Concrete poets’ attempts to shift their aesthetic production towards spectatorship and reception in the latter half of the 1960s.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures

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