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"Estudos Avançados" #96 addresses Goethe, and violence in Brazil and Latin America

by Richard Meckien - published Aug 21, 2019 03:35 PM - - last modified Dec 16, 2019 04:45 PM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Claudia Costa.

Capa da Revista estudos avançados Nº 96"Violence is a slippery concept. In its oldest and most widely shared core, it means violation of an individual or group's physical integrity. The use of the word usually represents an aggression to someone. But over time it has gained more and more meaning, and is now dependent on a legitimation dispute." The excerpt is taken from an article signed by Professor Michel Misse, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), and published in the dossier Fear of Violence, which is part of the new issue of Estudos Avançados, IEA's quarterly journal.

Latin America, says the professor, has less than 10% of the world's population, but is behind one third of the global homicides. "According to the United Nations, 14 of the 20 most dangerous countries in the world are in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2017, 65,000 people were murdered in Brazil. Brazilian police kill more than any other police in the world, but also die more than anywhere else," he reports. The author also states that widespread violence in Brazil has been increasing for at least four decades, unlike in Mexico and Colombia, where there are cartels of cocaine and other illicit drugs. According to him, homicide rates are rising throughout Latin America, with the one exception of Chile... for now. "Even Argentina and Uruguay, which had the lowest homicide rates up to ten years ago, are already experiencing significant increase in violence," he continues.

But what contemporary feelings do our cities arouse? The question has been asked by Professor Claudio Beato, coordinator of the Center for Studies on Crime and Public Security at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (CRISP-UFMG). "They blend beyond the sad spectacle of misery in our gigantic slums with the omnipresent fear in the lives of the inhabitants of large Latin American cities." According to the author, Latin American dystopia describes violent cities, a scenario of overlapping socioeconomic and institutional failures. "Understanding this conjunction of feelings and facts is the challenge generations of analysts, scholars, writers, and scientists have been addressing for decades," he says.

Professor Alba Zalluar, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, starts from the idea that denial of fear affects the construction and effectiveness of public security policies to deliver her essay.

In the article by Renato Sérgio de Lima, CEO at the Brazilian Public Security Forum, there are data and information compiled by the organization he runs, as well as research outcomes from others, showing that Brazil has failed to reduce violence. "From the 1980s onwards, the homicide rate has grown by an average of 20% per year and since 2014 we have risen to around 60,000 intentional violent deaths annually, meaning a national rate of 28 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants," he compares.

Recently, "in the 2018 general election - and to the surprise of countless political analysts -, Brazil witnessed the emergence of a new political conjuncture, in which speeches on violence dramatization, war against crime, hardening of criminal practices and public security, and devaluation of human rights policies have gained unprecedented audience. Thus, it was possible to elect numerous politicians throughout the country, including the current president, clearly committed to different forms of punitivism and criminal populism," as stated by Gustavo Lucas Higa and Marcos César Alvarez, respectively a doctoral student and a professor at USP's Faculty of Philosophy, Languages and Literature, and Human Sciences (FFLCH-USP), in the article Humanization of Prisons and Moral Panics," which ends the dossier.

Goethe in his office, dictating to secretary and clerk Johann August John. Oil painting by Johann Joseph Schmeller.

270 years of Goethe

In commemoration of the 270th birthday of German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), the journal features articles on his life and work. The literalness of Goethe's autobiography is the subject of Helmut Galle, a professor of German Literature at FFLCH's Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. From My Life: Poetry and Truth began to be written when the writer was 60 years old and was published in four parts in 1811, 1812, 1814, and posthumously in 1833. According to the professor, it is one of the genre's prototypes, serving as a model for hundreds of later autobiographies. Galle comments that it is commendable that the old Brazilian translation of Leonel Valandro (Goethe, 1971), sold out for decades, has been replaced by a solid hardcover edition with a new translation by Mauricio Mendonça Cardozo. According to him, explanatory notes have been added and make it easier to read this work, which contains hundreds of references to remote historical events and people unknown today.

Goethe's correspondence, estimated at over 20,000 written letters of which 15,000 are deposited in the Weimar Goethe and Schiller Archive, besides 25,000 received ones, is the subject of an article by Marcus Vinícius Mazzari, a professor of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at FFLCH. His scientific writings, or nature studies, are the subject of Magali Moura, an associate professor of German Language and Literature at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ). His poems have been analyzed by João Barrento, who has studied Germanic Philosophy at the University of Lisbon's School of Letters, and some of them have been translated for this issue.

Another article addresses Faust, which Goethe published in fragments despite his bold attempts to do so in a single set, according to Michael Jaeger, a professor at the Free University of Berlin. Only one posthumous edition was able to unite all parts. "The first complete critical edition of Faust was prepared under the direction of Anne Bohnenkamp and presented by the Frankfurt Goethe Museum in 2018," he adds.

Carta Goethe
Letter from Goethe (June 17, 1777) communicating the death of his sister Cornelia (1750-1777) to Countess Auguste von Stolberg (1753-1835).

The dossier includes a text by Daniel Martineschen, who holds a PhD in Literature and Translation from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) and translator of West-Östlicher Divan into Portuguese, exactly 200 years after its original publication. The article "Goethe and his 'Brazilian Network'," by curator Sylk Schneider, a scholar of Romance studies, geography, and economics at universities in Germany and Brazil, reports the proximity of the German writer to Brazil. According to him, "there is practically no other non-European country with which Goethe has been as intensely related as Brazil."

The issue also features the dossier Black Ink, White Paper: Afro-descendant Writings and Emancipation, which, according to the organizer, Professor Maria Helena Machado, aims to "analyze the narration parameters of personal history as a strategy of one's own appropriation and as an emancipation paradigm." The current affairs section presents two emerging themes: the concept of coup d'etat, analyzing the end of Dilma Rousseff's mandate as president of Brazil, and invasion of privacy and exploitation of personal data by technology companies. Articles about two specialists, Ana Maria Primavesi (agroecology) and Sérgio Milliet (culture), make up the section entitled Presences. Finally, the section Contemporary Poetry includes a collection organized by Alberto Martins.

The list below contains the names of the authors who have contributed with each one of the addressed themes:


Alba Zaluar
Michel Misse
Claudio Beato
Renato Sérgio de Lima
Gustavo Lucas Higa and Marcos César Alvarez

Black Ink, White Paper: Afro-descendant Writings and Emancipation

Maria Helena Pereira Toledo Machado
Ligia Fonseca Ferreira
Lilia Moritz Schwarcz
Iamara da Silva Viana, Alexandre Ribeiro Neto and Flávio Gomes
Maria Clara Carneiro Sampaio and Marília B. A. Ariza
Luciana da Cruz Brito


Marcus Vinicius Mazzari
Helmut Galle
Michael Jaeger
Daniel Martineschen
João Barrento
Magali Moura
Sylk Schneider

Current Affairs

Marcos Napolitano
Rafael A. F. Zanatta and Ricardo Abramovay


Carlos Guilherme Mota
Virgínia Mendonça Knabben

Contemporary Poetry

Alberto Martins

Photos (from the top): reproduction in Estudos Avançados #96 and extraction from
Goetheana. A Centenary Portfolio of Forty-three Facsimiles. William A. Speck Collection, Yale University Library. New Haven, 1932

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