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The symbol of death and irony in As Intermitências da Morte, by José Saramago and Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas, by Machado de Assis

Grant number: 13/25984-3
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): March 01, 2014
Effective date (End): December 31, 2015
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Literature - Comparative Literature
Principal Investigator:Marcia Valeria Zamboni Gobbi
Grantee:Ligia Carolina Franciscati da Silva
Host Institution: Faculdade de Ciências e Letras (FCL). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Araraquara. Araraquara , SP, Brazil


The aim of this research is to analyze two novels: As Intermitências da Morte (2005), by José Saramago, and Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas (1880), by Machado de Assis, in order to focus on the representation of death in face of the human reality and the irony expressed by the narrator in both novels. The comparative analysis will be developed tracing the concept of representation from Aristotle to research on the term by Auerbach (2009) and how death is presented in the novels. As for the figure of the narrator, we apply the proposal by Gérard Genette (19 -), mainly by the split this instance presents between voice and narrative mode, observing the construction of situations to bring the reader to reflect, through irony, about the behavior of man in society and the transience of life. The concept of irony will be studied following Muecke (1995). In Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas, Machado creates the autobiographical novel of Brás Cubas, narrator-character who, after death, tell us his earthly experiences, taking the form of a deceased writer. Being dead, the narrator assumes a timeless position as he analyzes his life and the existential and cultural issues that underlie human experience. In As Intermitências da Morte, on the other hand, the interruption of death occurs, and people believe that they will live forever. From this perspective, the narrator shows the position of men in relation to politics and as more interested in money, e.g. with concerns about the continuity of life insurance, even when such investment is senseless, especially in relation to those who were in a state of "near death" and suffered for it. The critical capacity and omniscience of the narrator allow large reflections on the existence and situations in which irony is latent, not sparing the church, society and individuals. Regarding the representation of death, Saramago modifies it progressively throughout the novel, and the narrator tells us how she takes on a human role, rather than just a skeleton, becoming a woman and acquiring human feelings such as anger and love. To represent it (or her) the author turns to the female figure, which can be symbolized by the Moiras, holding the edge of the pathway, as in its work death writes violet letters to people who die, giving them a period of eight days to perform their last wishes. In Machado, on the other hand, the representation is achieved by means of the figure of Pandora, the woman who has all the gifts, including the ending of human life, created by Zeus. Another important aspect is that in both novels there is the overcoming of the event of death. In Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cuba, the narrator character is already on another plane and establishes contact with humans in order to tell his life with a new outlook, as he overcame the mortal condition, while in As Intermitências da Morte, the cellist receives violet letters, which should mean his death; however, this does not occur, and that's why death becomes human to solve that conundrum. The choice of the novels of Machado and José Saramago was motivated by the finding that the two authors deal with themes of death in a representative manner, leading the reader to reflect on social issues such as the value of appearance or money, and on universal issues such as fear of death and the reader's relationship with others. Such issues are brought forth by the provocative attitude of the narrator, with pretensions to cause discomfort to the reader, making it via irony. Although more than a century separates the publication of the novels, the intention is to recognize how these aspects of the narrative configuration manifest themselves and to compare them, considering how narrators position themselves in relation to death, how irony is manifested in their work and what elements are common between them, noting that the analysis of irony is specifically tied to the representation of the theme of death. (AU)

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