Comparative studies of Literature

Research Projects:

Dialogues in the Amazon region: literature, culture, and society

Description: The project aims to create a synergy of studies on the Amazon territory (comarca cultural, Rama), having as its centre the literary and artistic dynamics and productions, but understood as cultural expressions located in time and space. Such a perspective makes indispensable the dialogue between literature, arts and Humanities: philosophy, geography, history, anthropology, politics, sociology, and linguistics. Although the Amazon is a well known region, it is still relatively little studied. To research its social and cultural processes means taking into account both past and present differences and conflicts, but also social and cultural similarities among different countries of the region. These should be brought together, surpassing borders and strengthening links that, if developed, could contribute to an effective South American Union.

 Professor in charge: Ligia Chiappini Moraes Leite (


History and allegory in Goethe’s Faust

Description: This research project refers to Goethe’s Faust, German literature magnum opus and also (in his ‘classical’ heterogeneity) one of the most peculiar works in all world literature, once it incorporated, throughout the six decades of its writing, preromantic traits from the Sturm und Drang movement, symbolic procedures of the Classicist aesthetic and also the allegorical features of his old age style. It is intended that this research work result in a study based on the most prominent texts written about the work, that it may offer to the Brazilian reader consistent summaries of the main theoretical positions of Faust philology, point out the moments of paradigm shift in the critical fortune and also build an interpretation of the tragedy (in particular the dramatic complex known as the ‘Tragedy of colonisation’) in the light of aspects taken from the Brazilian colonising process, what could represent a somewhat unprecedented contribution to Goethian studies. The research is centred on three main thematic axes. The first one relates to the Faust tradition prior to Goethe, which begins in 1587 with the publication of the popular book Historia von D. Johann Fausten. There is an immense bibliography on this work (of crucial importance to Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus) to be worked selectively, i.e., in line with the relevant aspects for Goethe himself. The second research axis is focused primarily on the tragedy historical substrate (concealed often in the allegorical form) and, therefore, on its astonishing topicality; will be opened here wide space to the role of Mephistopheles, certainly the most complex, irreverent, ‘carnivalesque’ (to use this central term of Bakhtin’s theory) and, above all, modern devil figure of all world literature. The third part will contemplate the works, in literature subsequent to Goethe, that develop motifs present in Faust, looming names like Dostoyevsky, Fernando Pessoa, Paul Valéry, Mikhail Bulgakov, Thomas Mann, and Guimarães Rosa. Hopefully, the proposed research should contribute to a deeper understanding of this central work of modern literature, which reverberates in almost all Western literatures (to think still, relative to our literature, a poem such as ‘A máquina do mundo’ or a novel as São Bernardo) and whose topicality is highlighted by the renowned Swiss economist Biswanger (Geld und Magie, 2005) – to give just this example – in the following terms: ‘Goethe’s Faust is of a nearly unimaginable topicality. It is, of all dramas written to date, the most modern. He puts in the foreground a theme that, more than any other, dominates present times: the fascination which emanates from economy. [...] Those who do not understand the alchemy of economy, the message from Goethian Faust, are not able to comprehend the monstrous size of modern economy’.

Professor in charge: Marcus Vinicius Mazzari (


The Odyssey and Brazilian Literature: Resonances

Description: This work’s proposal is to examine thematic motifs found in The Odyssey and establish a counterpoint with Brazilian Literature. The Odyssey is here interpreted from an Adornian stance, which sees it as a metaphorical journey of Western man pursuing the constitution of the subject. In a first instance, the intent is to point out how Brazilian authors reappropriate the “cultural capital” (Bourdieu) of Greek epic poetry; in a second movement, the work will examine occurrences of Odyssean topoi in Brazilian popular literature (folk narratives, Brazilian popular music, cordel,  native myths) – reconfirming the oral character of epic poetry and likening it to the oral poetry of other peoples. At the same time, the notion of “classic” is rediscussed, while avoiding the “compromised practices” (Saïd) of Humanist studies.

Professor in charge: Adélia Toledo Bezerra de Meneses (


Modern lyric poetry and prose and some peculiarities of the relationship between literature and painting

Description: The research is turned to the study of modern lyric poetry and prose considering the shape of the poem or narrative as a precipitation of a historical content. One of the points of interest in this field is the relationship between literature and painting, in poets such as William Carlos Williams, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Murilo Mendes, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Valéry (among others), so as to clarify how the poem, when it reconfigures in verse form (the structure) of the screen, interprets it. If the poem is in this way a central part of this research, it is also important to study the critique made by poets or writers, in its specificity. Still in the field of comparative literature, the comparison between two poets will be relevant.

Professor in charge: Betina Bischof (


Literature and painting: from the explicit relation to pictorial writing

Description: To present a historical background of the relations between literature and painting and arrange, in a theoretical perspective, procedures that enable the presence or translate echoes of painting in literature. Many authors will be invited to illustrate the different types of relationships between these languages.

Professor in charge: Sandra Margarida Nitrini (


Contemporary Latin American narrative (1990 to the present)

Description: The project studies Latin American literary production of the past 20 years, in addition to its criticism and theoretical texts that contribute to the consideration of the period and its cultural practices.

Professor in charge: Marcos Piason Natali (


Pathos in literature: from The Song of Songs and the Greeks to contemporary literature

Description: The proposal is an approach to passion in literature - from the Bible and Greece to the present date. More than conceptualise, we intend to illustrate the passional experience that the great texts register, indicating a series of literary paradigms, in the period that goes from the 9th century B.C. until today: texts that taught us how to say love. So, we will expound characteristics of the love-passion, all originated from the perception of the radical incompleteness that pervades our personal experience (and that gave origin to myths such as the Androgynous in Plato’s Symposium and of Eve taken from the rib of Adam in biblical Genesis: myths from different cultural strains, but nevertheless from the same etiology). A first examination of Western literature texts that deals with love-passion would lead to a series of invariants that listed would indicate the debt to the paradigm of the Song of Songs. And here it is confirmed Blake’s formulation, taken over by Northrop Frye, that the Bible is the Great Code of Western literature - to which it is necessary to add the Greeks. The research corpus will integrate, besides the Song, emblematic texts of amorous passion: Sappho, Pindar, Homeric hymns, Euripides, Sophocles, troubadour poetry; Tristan and Isolde, Dante, Petrarch, Camões, Shakespeare, Antero de Quental, Gonçalves Dias etc. - always in a counterpoint with the contemporaries, Drummond, Guimarães Rosa, Bandeira, Neruda, Murilo Mendes, João Cabral, Ferreira Gullar, Adelia Prado, popular song (MPB), folk quadrilles and Northeast Cordel literature. It is important to say yet, that such invariant search equates itself, dialectically, with a social-historical observation, that will seek to apprehend the different modulations that amorous pathos will assume throughout history.

Professor in charge: Adélia Toledo Bezerra de Menezes (


Osman Lins converses with Gide

Description: With Nine, novena, Avalovara and The Queen of the prisons of Greece, Osman Lins became in life more recognised abroad than in Brazil, where critics, who had accepted well his previous books, showed them resistance. From 1990 to this date readers attracted to these works in several graduate programs in Brazil have appeared, but there is still much to be developed within the extent of its incipient critical fortune, academic or not. While contemplating the analytical and critical reading of The Queen of the prisons of Greece, this project proposes to contribute to the comprehension of Osman Lins’ fictional work. The comparatist perspective with Gide’s novel, Les faux monnayeurs contributes to put The Queen of the prisons of Greece within the innovative novels of the 20th century and to comprehend its creation process. Regarding the line of theoretical elaborations of both writers, this project contributes to situate it in the group of writers that reflect on the art of writing.

Professor in charge: Sandra Margarida Nitrini (


For an ethics of forms

Description: This research project aims to study theoretical questions raised by the writings of the French poet Paul Valéry (1871-1945), especially those related to history and poetic creation, having as main objective the research of the unfolding of these issues at the reception of his work among Brazilian poets (from Mário de Andrade and Manuel Bandeira, passing through Drummond and João Cabral until the concrete poets and Waly Salomão), taking into account the analysis of the poet’s vast reception in his own country and in Spanish-American literature.

Professor in charge: Roberto Zular (


Realism, novel, and its ghosts: readings of Henry James and Machado de Assis

Description: Based upon the literary and critical work of James and Machado, this project attempts to understand in what extent both authors were preoccupied with the problematic form capable representing a social ground which no longer seems firm. Namely, it explores the way each writer proposed the interrelation between form and content not only as aesthetic truth, but also as a measure of aesthetic excellence, giving at the same time expression to the ‘historic shock.’ One of the related subjects concerns the concept of the Doppelgänger, regarded in its historical and social context.

Professor in charge: Marcelo Pen Parreira (


Romanticism: dialogues

Description: Reading of some works of German and French romanticism. The chosen path departs, firstly, of the dialogue itself between the two writers, and also strives to follow by critical and comparative analysis of the works the creative and critical paths traced by them from other creators works. Here we contemplate the live reception that results in creation and critical reception; as well as the way that critique and creation are imbricated in the works of the studied authors. The play between reflection, critical reading and creation is certainly a constant theme of romanticism: it is present in many theoretical formulations, but also in the practice of many creators. In our study, we consider those formulations, but we favour the path of dialogue that takes place among the works themselves. It is understood still that to put the works in dialogue and seek their reciprocal enlightenment is something that can enable us to a better understanding of each one of them. It allows us also to follow themes and procedures taken over by some authors: certain constants found in the romantic period (and post-romantic). The study of the dialogue among the creators have still in sight a more general reflection on literary criticism and comparative literature that, even today, can be brought up by romantic thought and, above all, by the critical and comparative practice found in the studied authors. The study focuses on some issues and some themes. The first of these issues, a more general one, is the relationship between different literatures established in a particularly intense way in Romanticism. We should focus on some dialogues between French and German Romanticism (and post-romanticism). The artist (and poet) theme that is found in the works of authors such as Novalis, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Gérard de Nerval, Charles Baudelaire and Honoré de Balzac is another research axis and is connected with the reflection on the dialogue and rapprochement of Arts.

Professor in charge: Marta Kawano (


Written sacrifices: literature, ethics, difference

Description: If the question of sacrifice crossed the anthropological, historiographic, and philosophical bibliographies of the 20th century, including the ambiguous call by Jean-Luc Nancy to “sacrifice sacrifice”, this project aims to revisit the discussion of sacrifice, this time having in mind its possible contribution to a reflection on contemporary literature. Considering Jacques Rancière’s notion that sacrifice is the declaration of a choice, the research uses the sacrificial structure to think literature as always at odds with demands of various sorts. Through reading literary texts by Roberto Bolaño and José María Arguedas and philosophical works by Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas, the research examines how literature, in comparison with the elegy, responds to ethical dilemmas present in any funereal text.

Professor in charge: Marcos Piason Natali (


A comparative study of between lyric poetry and still life painting

Description: The research compares modern Lyric Poetry with painting, or, to be more specific, with Still Life (focusing at first on painters from the Netherlands in the specific context of the seventeenth century, but also taking into consideration wider expressions of Still Life, in other historical contexts). The study, which aims to study the history and development of still life painting and modern lyrical expression, has as its main object the debate around the rise of these two genre, that have acquired autonomy and the modern characteristic by which we recognize them precisely by that time.

A key issue in this research is the emergence of a closed space (whether of the lyrical subject in its relatively withdrawal from the world, whether of the objects depicted in the inner space of the bourgeois house).  Being more specific, this research will address two major objectives: the inner rupture between subject and object in Lyric Poetry and in Still Life; and the hypothesis that one could see the enclosed representation of still life objects inside the bourgeois home as a kind of echo of the Lyrical subject’s retreat from a hostile world (marked by racionalization, mercantilism, disenchantment) that is imprinted in negative in the (harmonious) composition.

Professor in charge: Betina Bischof (