Avoiding the digital insanity: the attachment to constructivism in Brazilian literature

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How to build a nation from words? My hypothesis in this paper is that the constructive role of the written text in Brazilian culture has been holding back its experiments on digital literature.
Ever since its inception, the relationship between Brazil and literature has been quite peculiar. Colonized by Portugal, which had a substantial literary history, the circulation of books and the establishment of the press has been forbidden until century XIX. The legal flow of texts, therefore, occurred shortly before the Brazilian independence in 1822. This fact linked literary expression to the idea of building a nation, especially until the middle of the 20th century
Although some local poets have been distinguished by its satirical and irreverent spirit, it is common to find between the Brazilian writers what the critic Antonio Candido called the "tradição empenhada." (“committed tradition”). This term defined a kind of engagement that sought to reflect in the literary text social utopias.
In the 1950s, the Brazilian concrete poetry movement published avant-garde manifestos and inaugurated, on national context, a tradition of poetry that dialogue with Arts and Design. The concrete poets, who related creation to theory, were targeted both for admiration and for rejection. In the last case, critics thought their work suffered from “excessive internationalization."
Concrete poetry´s experimentalism, however, was intimately related to the period of accelerated transformation of the country towards urbanization and industrialization; but it was not restricted to that. Poetic concretism also was a response to the trauma of a colonized country whose "literary fashions" always came in the wake of what was fashionable abroad.
According to Charles Perrone, concrete Brazilian poetry helped “to reconfigure the nation in cultural terms.” Moreover, we believe that this movement foreshadowed future events that would become widely diffused in the digital era: the enhancement of word materiality, the spatial organization of the verses, the use of sounds and colors as elements of poetic creation.
Our perspective, however, is that these proposals were not dissociated from the constructive parameters related to the mission of building a nation. And that this tendency generates a lack of resonance of the "inconsequently experimental" literary movements like SpamPoetry, Flarf Poetry, and Conceptualism, which makes the Brazilian digital literature still predominantly follow the concrete verbivocovisual tradition.

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Miriam Takvam