Círculo vicioso incompleto: Misplaced ideas and the non-circulation of the poetry of Machado de Assis
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The poetry of nineteenth-century Brazilian writer Machado de Assis offers a fascinating case study of literary and cultural circulation between Latin America and Europe. While all nine of his novels and many short stories have now been translated into English, more than a century after his death only a handful of his roughly 200 poems have been translated into English. Through Roberto Schwarz’s framework of “misplaced ideas,” this paper examines the role Machado played in importing external cultural elements into Brazil through his poetry, criticism, translations, and novels, and interrogates the conditions that have contributed to the failure of his poetry to reach the Anglophone world. Using Machado’s own essay on the Brazilian literary instinct, as well as José Luís Jobim’s work on both circulation and Machado’s development as a writer, this paper also helps place Machado’s poetry within the scheme of his larger literary project, encompassing his novels, short stories, poetry, and literary and cultural criticism.