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This book offers an alternative explanation for one of the core dilemmas of Brazilian literary criticism: the “midlife crisis” Machado de Assis underwent from 1878 to 1880, the result of which was the writing of The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, as well as the remarkable production of his mature years—with an emphasis on his masterpiece, Dom Casmurro.

At the center of this alternative explanation, Castro Rocha situates the fallout from the success enjoyed by Eça de Queirós with the publication of Cousin Basílio and Machado’s two long texts condemning the author and his work. Literary and aesthetic rivalries come to the fore, allowing for a new theoretical framework based on a literary appropriation of “thick description,” the method proposed by anthropologist Clifford Geertz. From this method, Castro Rocha derives his key hypothesis: an unforeseen consequence of Machado’s reaction to Eça’s novel was a return to the classical notion of aemulatio, which led Machado to develop a “poetics of emulation.”

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