White Fears and Fantasies: Writing the Nation in Post-abolition Brazil and Cuba
This dissertation discusses the literary representations of Afro-descendants in mid- to late-nineteenth century Cuba and Brazil, and how these representations impacted the development of the national narratives and mapped out the future social terrain for blacks and whites in both countries. This work evaluates Doris Sommer's assertion that novels can serve as attempts to consolidate national identity, and that they help bind disparate groups in the formation of new nations. I use her model of "Foundational Fictions" to analyze the development of the national narratives in Cuba and Brazil, two nations with deeply-rooted histories of slavery, large slave populations, and late abolition of slavery. Novels by Cirilo Villaverde and Aluisio Azevedo were chosen as representative examples because of the dominant roles that Afro-Cubans and Afro-Brazilian play in their narratives. If literary unions symbolized unions between antagonistic social cadres, erasing social distinctions, then testing the model's ability would be most useful in nations with large Afro-descent populations; the results of the analysis were negative. All unions between whites and Afro-descendants delineated in the novels were marked with tragedy and death, resulting in failures I call "Foundering Fictions." These novels accentuated differences between Afro-descendants and whites and ideologically informed the nascent social institutions of the new republics. Therein, they served to attenuate the oppression of Afro-descendants in both countries.
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