Cannibal Violence: Reformulation of Dominant Masculinity in the Ibero-American Avant-Garde

By Alexandra Becker

With the advent of F.T. Marinetti’s “Manifeste du futurisme” [“Futurist Manifesto”1] and the first international literary avant-garde movement in 1909, a set of concerns were inaugurated for literary as well as national cultural modernization, whose blueprint would prove applicable in the non-European context as well. Futurismo [futurism] pointed, on the one hand, to a celebration of the technical accomplishments of modernity. On the other, however, it also resorted to a complex ideology of primitivism, violence, and misogyny in its attempt to inaugurate the latecomer Italy to the world stage. Among the various avant-garde literary movements spawned in the early 20th century, all more or less indebted to futurismo and its literary form, are Manuel Maples Arce’s estridentismo [stridentism] in Mexico and Oswald de Andrade’s antropofagia [cannibalism] in Brazil. Both countries, situated at the poles of Latin or Ibero-America, shared Italy’s concerns with national modernization and global international relevance, expressing them in manifesto form with Maples Arce’s “Actual No. 1” (1921) and “Manifiesto estridentista” [“Stridentist Manifesto”] (1923) and de Andrade’s “Manifesto da poesia pau-brasil” [“Manifesto of Pau-Brazil Poetry”] (1924) and “Manifesto antropófago” [“Cannibalist Manifesto”] (1928). They also contended with their own interplay of dominant and minoritarian identity paradigms, from the hyper-masculine standard of machismo [chauvinism] to the acknowledgement of the “savage” native past. Estridentismo closely followed futurismo in many respects, but broke with its fascist turn. Antropofagia constitutively acknowledges its cultural borrowings while ironically emblematizing seemingly historical and evolutionary backwardness. Taken together, these case studies represent two possible reformulations in the history of futurismo’s associations with misogyny and primitivism that complicate and challenge its continuing legacy. In their cultural adaptations and appropriations of Marinetti’s aesthetic and ideological principles, Maples Arce and de Andrade illuminate the ways in which Latin America as a cultural sphere came to terms with modernity in the 20th century through the negotiation of masculinity and its dominantly accepted traits of aggression and violence.

F.T. Marinetti’s “Manifeste du futurisme” arose out of a complex aesthetic response to the political and historical situation of Italy at the turn of the 20th century, inaugurating the international literary-artistic avant-garde period as one closely allied to negotiating the industrial and technological age, especially from the viewpoint of underdevelopment. The manifesto itself, attaining fame when published in French as the language of greater cultural capital in 1909, is composed of eleven main points followed by a nearly theatrical tirade against the aesthetic tastes of the past. Among the most important is point six, insisting that “il faut que le poète se dépense avec chaleur… pour augmenter la ferveur enthousiaste des éléments primordiaux” (3) [“the poet will have to do all in his power… to increase the delirious fervor of the primordial elements” (14)], which provides a basis for futurismo’s focus on the ingenuous truthfulness of primitivism. Lucia Re provides an insightful comment on how this aesthetic works for Marinetti’s futurismo:

Although certainly colonial and imperialist, [Marinetti’s] aggressive imaginary hybridization of Italy with Africa comes, in a sense, out of Africa (Italy itself having [been] largely construed as part of Africa, and vice versa), and embodies the complex and stratified give-and-take of the colonial encounter and of colonial discourse rather than a binary opposition between the imperialist colonizer and the colonized. (361)

Italy’s impulse to break with the past, in addition, came about partially due to being perceived almost as an outdoor museum frozen in time by the omnipresent weight of classical Western civilization, which Marinetti saw as a dusty relic. Italy had to appropriate the Industrial Revolution from Northern Europe even more so than African primitivism.

Turning from primitivism to militarism and technology, point nine of the “Manifeste du futurisme,” perhaps the most controversial, asserts, “Nous voulons glorifier la guerre,—seule hygiène du monde—le militarisme, le patriotisme, le geste destructeur des anarchistes… et le mépris de la femme” (1) [“we wish to glorify war—the sole cleanser of the world—militarism, patriotism, the destructive act of the libertarian… and scorn for women” (14)], displaying futurismo’s alignment with misogyny and political fascism. Perhaps unintuitive, this point can coexist with the earlier point six, as Marinetti’s and the Futurists’ brand of barbarism eventually came to co-exist in Fascist Italy in an uneasy and ambiguous tension with another form of self-proclaimed barbarism: “…right-wing rural primitivism…” (Re 361). Finally, point eleven of Marinetti’s “Manifeste du futurisme” describes futurismo’s most well-known and titular feature, the fascination with technology, by proclaiming that “Nous chanterons… les gares… les usines… les ponts… les locomotives au grand poitrail…. et le vol glissant des aéroplanes…” (3) [“we shall sing… of railway stations… of workshops… of bridges… of broad-breasted locomotives… and of the lissome flight of the airplane…” (14)]. A far cry from Roman architecture, these technologies of travel and their infrastructures aimed to connect Italy with the rest of the world as the latest cosmopolitan nation. These three general principles, along with the manifesto form, contributed to the inspiration of a host of descendent avant-garde movements worldwide in the decades following 1909, which adhered to certain of Marinetti’s aesthetic and ideological elements more or less closely.

Marinetti’s “Manifeste du futurisme,” understood by its author to operate within the same system of cultural history as pre-20th century literature and art, in fact provided a ready-made response to all foreseen aesthetic inheritors. Taking a decidedly un-hypocritical stance and following his conclusions to their logical end, Marinetti professed an anticipatory satisfaction at his own movement’s being outmoded and replaced:

Quand nous aurons quarante ans, que de plus jeunes et plus vaillants que nous veuillent bien nous jeter au panier comme des manuscrits inutiles! . . . Ils viendront contre nous de très loin, de partout . . . . Mais nous ne serons pas là. Ils nous trouveront enfin . . . en train de chauffer nos mains sur le misérable feu que feront nos livres d’aujourd’hui . . . . [S]’élanceront pour nous tuer, avec d’autant plus de haine que leur cœur sera ivre d’amour et d’admiration pour nous. (4)

When we reach forty, other, younger, and more courageous men will very likely toss us into the trash can, like useless manuscripts. And that’s what we want! Our successors will rise up against us, from far away, from every part of the world . . . . But we won’t be there . . . . Eventually, they will find us . . . warming our hands around the flickering flames of our present-day books . . . . [T]hey will hurl themselves upon us to kill us, driven by a hatred made all the more implacable because their hearts overflow with love and admiration for us. (15-16)

While revealing by analogy the debt that Marinetti may feel to literatures of the past that he otherwise appears to scorn, his expectations for the rise and fall of futurismo are prescient. In predicting that “nous avons donc au moins dix ans pour accomplir notre tâche,” (4) [“we have at least ten years in which to complete our task” (15)], Marinetti approximates the dates of the advent of estridentismo twelve years after and antropofagia fifteen years after the publication of the “Manifeste du futurisme.” He also expects his successors to arise from places perhaps as far across the Atlantic as Latin America. Maples Arce in estridentismo similarly espoused the type of patricidal violence that Marinetti advocates, along with the ideals of the Mexican Revolution that also temper his aesthetic; de Andrade, for his part, appears with antropofagia to take Marinetti’s metaphor a step further than originally envisioned.

Within the Futurismo movement founded by Marinetti, it is a curious and contentious point that adherent associate and British author Mina Loy’s “Feminist Manifesto” reproduces the professed ideology of misogyny. Contrary to expectations, Marinetti and futurismo not only admitted the possibility of female authors being associated with the group, but, in actuality, some willingly accepted the role of publicizing the controversial Futurist views. Considering that Loy was a native of a dominant world nation, far-removed from Italy’s self-conscious image, her genuine participation in Marinetti’s concerns could be puzzling, but perhaps her subordinate status as a woman allows a complicated identification. Loy’s idiosyncratic “Feminist Manifesto” reads like a long prose poem or polemical rant that introduces difficulties into Futurist misogyny but ultimately appears to uphold it through its conception of feminism as an acknowledgement of female inferiority, at least under the conditions of feminine development as of the 20th century. One of the early shocks comes when Loy writes on the manifesto’s first page “be Brave & deny at the outset—that pathetic clap-trap war cry Woman is the equal of man—She is NOT!” Further problematic statements that appear to place the woman at the mercy of male dominance, this time near the end of the manifesto, include the exhortation that “every woman of superior intelligence should realize her race-responsibility, in producing children in adequate proportion to the unfit or degenerate members of her sex” and the admonition “women must destroy in themselves, the desire to be loved—The feeling that it is a personal insult when a man transfers his attentions from her to another woman” (155-156). While Loy eschews the technological propensities and overtly political overtones of Marinetti’s brand of futurismo, she certainly discharges the threat of violence when she proposes, midway through the manifesto, the “unconditional surgical destruction of virginity through-out the female population at puberty” (155). References to primitivism are also not as clear, unless Loy’s elevation of the status of the prostitute or mistress can be defined as such. She advises that “the woman who is so completely evolved as to be un-self-conscious in sex, will prove a restrictive influence . . . the woman who is a poor mistress will be an incompetent mother—inferior mentality . . .” (154), thereby reversing the expected results of civilization and granting superiority to engagement in polyamorous or subterranean practices of the uncouth. Ultimately, Loy exemplifies futurismo’s feminist and misogynistic nuances even more than her own apparent contradictions, as both she and Marinetti use theatrical shock tactics to indicate despising femininity but not necessarily the female.

If a self-proclaimed British feminist could also be a Futurist, the movement’s reach with the nascent romance-language avant-gardes of North and South America was hardly out of the question. Influenced by Marinetti’s Futurist thought and art, Manuel Maples Arce inaugurated his estridentista movement in Mexico in 1921 with the manifesto “Actual No. 1: Hoja de vanguardia / Comprimido estridentista” [“Avant-Garde Broadsheet / Stridentist Pill”], in which he explicitly makes homage to Marinetti’s glorification of technology while also dispensing with him in true imitative fashion. Maples Arce published all of his work in Spanish, but his poetry indicates his increasing employment of English-language phrases over the course of his literary movement; due to geographical proximity to the U.S. and the passage of a decade, French is not, in fact, as it was for Marinetti, Maples Arce’s strategically chosen lingua franca. Similarly formatted to the “Manifeste du futurisme,” “Actual No. 1” consists of fourteen lengthy statements followed, not by a polemic denunciation, but by a “directorio de vanguardia” (2) [directory of the avant-garde] listing forerunners and contemporary inspirations. Accordingly, Maples Arce claims “A esta eclatante afirmación del vanguardista italiano Marinetti . . . [yuxtaponer su] apasionamiento decisivo por las máquinas de escribir, y [su] amor efusivísimo por la literatura de los avisos económicos” (1) [to this striking affirmation of the Italian vanguard Marinetti . . . [to juxtapose his] decisive passion for writing machines, and [his] super-effusive love for the literature of economic ads], in section three, only to fulfill the prophesy of rejection in section twelve with the succinct injunction “nada de futurismo” (2) [nothing of Futurism]. If Maples Arce reincorporated the latter half of Marinetti’s “Manifeste du futurisme” in his formation of a Mexican avant-garde aesthetic, the former half is evident as ideological inspiration for estridentismo’s next manifesto, although crucially without the political turn to fascism.

The “Manifiesto estridentista” of 1923 demonstrates the important inheritance of Marinetti’s brand of primitivism that would come to inform not only estridentismo but also de Andrade’s entire antropofagia aesthetic, while also developing a particular image of dominant masculinity. In this much shorter manifesto, consisting of four main points and three tirades against individual persons, Maples Arce’s first point admits of “un profundo desdén . . . [encendido] pugnazmente en un odio caníbal para . . . todos los deseos renovadores que conmueven la hora insurreccional de nuestra vida mecanística” (1) [a profound disdain . . . burning pugnaciously in a cannibal hatred for all of the . . . reformist desires that excite the insurrectional hour of our mechanistic life]. Taken in de Andrade’s sense as inflected by Marinetti, this metaphor may intend both to show respect for and to assimilate the reformist spirit pervading Mexico just after the Revolution (1910-1920). The “Manifiesto estridentista,” however, also reveals its particular valuation of masculinity and ties to Futurist misogyny more than “Actual No. 1” had made clear. One of the closing lines insists that “Ser estridentista es ser hombre. Sólo los eunucos no estarán con nosotros” (1) [To be stridentist is to be man. Only eunuchs will not be with us], simultaneously excluding from its hegemonic masculinity not only women, but indeed all those who cannot give proof of the requisite genital paraphernalia. The linkage of virility and artistic or ideological viability also disqualified homosexuals, as the estridentistas were wont to use the term derogatorily. The estridentista task of cultural renewal thus found itself limited mostly to the specific class of heterosexual male individuals.

In some senses, aesthetic primitivism and ideological misogyny can go hand in hand, although in other contexts the two principals have an ambivalent relationship. The “primitive” art that inspired many of the European avant-gardes, such as African fertility statuary, clearly linked pre-modern and non-industrial peoples with enhanced masculine abilities. On the other hand, this threat can lead, as in Edward Said’s orientalist hypothesis, to the dominant white male masculinity’s stereotyping of the Other as effeminate. In any case, futurismo’s origins in Italy may inflect it slightly differently in this regard than the principals it passes on to Mexican estridentismo and Brazilian antropofagia. All three nations appeared as latecomers to the world order, making the blustery and modern, yet primal, aesthetic of the Futurist-inspired 20th-century avant-garde so appealing. Italy, however, held different political valences, especially with respect to colonialism. Whereas Italy belatedly attempted to claim its status as a colonizer and assert itself through fascism, Mexico and Brazil were instead targets of colonialism themselves. Thus, while Italian “fascism promoted new images of hegemonic masculinity, glorifying irrationality (the ‘triumph of the will,’ thinking with ‘the blood’) and the unrestrained violence of the frontline soldier” (Connell 193), the Mexican and Brazilian avant-gardes incorporated related but politically contrary messages. The machismo demonstrated by the closing sentiments of the “Manifiesto estridentista” may result from the “familiar suggestion that Latin American machismo was a product of the interplay of cultures under colonialism. The conquistadors provided both provocation and model . . . . Catholicism provided the ideology of female abnegation, and economic oppression blocked other sources of authority for men” (Connell 198). Thus, futurismo, although identifying as part of the Global South of the 20th century, acted in reality as an oppressive model of misogyny that was ideologically necessary for different reasons on the part of Mexican estridentismo and Brazilian antropofagia, as inculcated in their historical encounters with Spain and Portugal.

De Andrade’s “Manifesto da poesia pau-brasil” and “Manifesto antropófago” effect an even stronger re-figuration and turn within the aesthetics of futurismo than estridentismo had, challenging the interpretations of masculinity that the avant-garde in the 20th century could encompass. Consisting of anumerical paratactic statements, neither manifesto is as strictly organized as Marinetti’s and Maples Arce’s. The “Manifesto da poesia pau-brasil” does perform, however, the same initial gestures as the Italian and Mexican works, indicating its debt to futurismo as precursor while setting it aside, this time more gently, to make way for new theories. De Andrade honors technological advancement similarly to Marinetti and Maples Arce:

Como a época é miraculosa, as leis nasceram do próprio rotamento dinâmico dos fatores destrutivos.

A síntese

O equilíbrio

O acabamento de carrosserie

A invenção

A surpresa

Uma nova perspectiva

Uma nova escala (2)

 

As the age is miraculous, laws were born from the dynamic rotation of destructive factors.

Synthesis

Equilibrium

Automotive finish

Invention

Surprise

A new perspective

A new scale (186)

 

 

This theme continues in the later “Manifesto antropófago” with the line “A fixação do progresso por meios de catalogos e aparelhos de televisão. Só a maquinaria. E os transfusores de sangue” (1) [“The determination of progress by catalogues and television sets. Only machinery. And blood transfusers” (41)]. De Andrade makes, however, in the “Manifesto da poesia pau-brasil” the typical avant-garde move of disposing of past influences by writing, “O trabalho da geração futurista foi ciclópico . . . Realizada essa etapa, o problema é outro” (3) [“the labor of the Futurist generation was cyclopean . . . this step realized, the problem is other” (187)]. De Andrade thus begins anew the avant-garde cycle in Brazil.

De Andrade’s 1924 “Manifesto da poesia pau-brasil” prefigures the development of antropofagia somewhat in reverse, by attempting to take the raw materials of Brazilian culture and transform them into worthy objects of international aesthetic contemplation instead of passively following cultural developments abroad. Both of de Andrade’s manifestoes were written in Portuguese, indicating their nationalist pride, although like Maples Arce, de Andrade employs occasional English interruptions. Leslie Bary, in her introduction to the English translation of de Andrade’s later “Manifesto antropófago,” explicates de Andrade’s aim for beginning the avant-garde project with the Pau-Brazil aesthetic:

Oswald had announced an “export-quality” poetry that would not copy imported esthetic models but find its material in Brazilian history, popular culture, and everyday life . . . . Opposing avant-garde notions of poetry as “invention” and
“surprise” to the erudite, imitative art he associates with the colony and the Brazilian empire (1822-1889), Oswald unites the search for national identity with the modernist esthetic project . . . . In this schema, Brazilian cultural production becomes both native and cosmopolitan. Brazil’s “wild wilderness,” far from generating second-rate copies of Continental models, will give rise to an “agile and candid” modern poetry. Brazilwood [Pau-Brazil] poetry thus offers a solution for Brazil’s perceived cultural inferiority, and at the same time injects new life into the international cultural arena. (35)

The beginning of Brazil’s avant-garde here proves to have a fascinating connection to capitalist economic metaphors, a tactic that neither futurismo nor estridentismo adopt. Rather, certain of Maples Arce’s poems, especially “Urbe: Súper-poema bolchevique en 5 cantos” [“Metropolis: Bolshevik Super-Poem in 5 Cantos”], display a candid affiliation with Leninist Communism. The avant-garde, then, is not unilaterally concerned with applications to a specific economic system, but can vary widely among regions and movements in the same way that politically Italian Fascism formed no part of antropofagia or estridentismo. De Andrade’s initial avant-garde formulations in the “Manifesto da poesia pau-brasil” developed out of unique national circumstances and perhaps uncritically used the familiar tropic (in the sense of both literary tropes and “banana republics”) language that cast Brazil as a net exporter of goods and importer of culture, a position that would be nuanced by the “Manifesto antropófago.”

Antropofagia strengthened the depth and shock-value of Brazil’s avant-garde theory yet fascinatingly maintained figurative capitalist overtones, modifying the terms of exchange from strict Pau-Brazil exportation to the active appropriation and regurgitation of European models. Antropofagia thus proves to be less of a reversal of the Pau-Brazil aesthetic formulation than it may seem at first glance:

“Law of the cannibal” is in fact the law of the capitalist, who concerns himself only with what he does not already possess . . . . The difference between a cannibalist aesthetics and a monocultural economics is thus not to be located in their respective underlying metaphysics, for the . . . law of devouring and appropriation… underlies them both. (Noland 415-416)

Given that the expression of capitalism in the terms of cannibalism and appropriation have distinctly negative overtones, de Andrade’s choice to transform the Pau-Brazil aesthetic into its incarnation in antropofagia may appear surprising. The logic of this rhetorical move, however, is expressly that of playfully engaging the distinctive bases and means of the arrogant, powerful nations of the world and effectively beating them at their own game. The “Manifesto antropófago” speaks of its value in terms of goods, insisting “Tínhamos a relação e a distribução dos bens físicos, dos bens morais, dos bens dignarios” (1) [“we had the allocation of tangible goods, moral goods, and royal goods” (41)]. Just as Marinetti supported Italy’s colonialist ambitions in order to put his nation on a par with those that had long overshadowed it, de Andrade aligns Brazil with aggressive capitalist enterprise. He does so, nonetheless, in a spirit of self-awareness that redeems his metaphorics of appropriation more than Futurist political support of colonization could hope to be redeemed in the view of posterity.

Although futurismo celebrated irrationality through its primitive, Fascist masculinity, the complementarity of these attributes is ambiguous. Certainly, the “Manifesto antropófago” also claims a strong current of irrationality, in keeping with its defiant symbolism of the reclamation of cannibalism and Western European ideas for the storied cultural history of the New World. The rationale behind the label for the movement runs as follows:

Brazil’s first indigenous avant-garde invention was based on a recuperation of the previously pejorative term “cannibal” to refer to the active assimilation and transformation of foreign aesthetics by Brazilian-born Portuguese-speaking writers . . . . Cannibalism is an appropriate metaphor for this positively valenced mode of “appropriation”; it suggests the gesture of incorporation (otherwise known as pastiche, collage, grafting, or sampling) and exemplifies such an incorporation, a parodic recycling of a pejorative term that displaces the term’s previous value . . . . Intertextuality or literary cross-fertilization is the major theme… and de Andrade makes no attempt to disguise the fact that his own particular brand of avant-garde poetics is largely a cannibalization of previous European models . . . . However, it soon becomes evident that cannibalism is a practice that unites not simply Brazilian writers and artists in search of a historically resonant, indigenous aesthetic; rather, cannibalism is a practice that unites the entire human race . . . . (Noland 414-415)

Or, as the translator of the manifesto herself, Leslie Bary, puts it in her introduction, also partially quoted by Noland:

The [“Manifesto antropófago”] challenges the dualities civilization/barbarism, modern/primitive, and original/derivative, which had informed the construction of Brazilian culture since the days of the colony. In the MA, Oswald subversively appropriates the colonizer’s inscription of America as a savage territory which, once civilized, would be a necessarily muddy copy of Europe. The use of the cannibal metaphor permits the Brazilian subject to forge his specular colonial identity into an autonomous and original (as opposed to dependent, derivative) national culture. Oswald’s anthropophagist—himself a cannibalization, not of Rousseau’s idealized savage but of Montaigne’s avowed and active cannibal[—]neither apes nor rejects European culture, but ‘devours’ it, adapting its strengths and incorporating them into the native self. (35-36)

Specifically, the manifesto quips, “mas nunca admittimos o nascimento da logica entre nós” (1) [“we never permitted the birth of logic among us” (39)]. Logic and rationality, however, are most often associated with masculinity, while irrationality and sentiment are associated with femininity. Indeed, “with masculinity defined as a character structure marked by rationality, and Western civilization defined as the bearer of reason to a benighted world, a cultural link between the legitimation of patriarchy and the legitimation of empire was forged” (Connell 186-187). Futurismo’s self-defined alliance with irrationality, patriarchy, and empire thus seems specious; perhaps this foundational movement is not, in fact, a sturdy base. Antropofagia, conversely, remains ideologically sound, insisting on none of the political ends of futurismo.

With the “Manifesto antropófago ” and the advent of the antropofagia movement proper, de Andrade also distinctly complicates the Futurist project as it relates to hegemonic masculinity. Instead of preferring masculine qualities in the ushers of the modern age, the manifesto complains, “estamos fatigados de todos os maridos catholicos suspeitosos postos em drama” (1) [“we’re tired of all the suspicious Catholic husbands who’ve been given starring roles” (38)]. Women appear to have a legitimate place in antropofagia. Indeed, as opposed to estridentismo’s lack of female literary contributors and futurismo’s uneasy relationship between the misogyny introduced by Marinetti and its recurrence in Loy’s “Feminist Manifesto,” antropofagia incorporated respected female leaders, such as painter Tarsila do Amaral and author Patrícia Galvão, popularly known as Pagu. Galvão’s devout Communist sentiments, as displayed in her Parque industrial [Industrial Park: A Proletarian Novel], clash with the apparent coincidence of antropofagia and capitalism even as they clearly correspond to Maples Arce’s ideological leanings and those of many artists worldwide during the early 20th century. While the women of Brazilian antropofagia appear to have more independent intellectual contributions to their national avant-garde movement and also increased relevance as native founders of their aesthetic, their personal lives once again challenge the effects of their artistic merit to the elevation of women and femininity as opposed to hegemonic masculinity. Critically, one biographical anomaly that links both do Amaral and Pagu is that they both were, at different points, married to or else otherwise romantically involved with de Andrade. For the same reason that Loy’s injunction to women to suppress their feelings of attachment and self-importance in romantic or sexual relationships is troubling, especially given her advice that appears to support the “harem” conception of masculine rights over women, de Andrade’s ability to enjoy the company of both do Amaral and Pagu while retaining them as part of his literary circle, and the negative terms on which these relationships ended, can have strongly misogynist overtones. Despite de Andrade’s professed inclusion and equal acceptance of women into antropofagia, the ideological tenets of his movement and his individual actions may reveal an irreconcilable hypocrisy that undermines the distance from hegemonic masculinity that his embodiment of the Futurist avant-garde legacy appeared to innovate.

Still, the valences of this masculinity remain, and even more problematically, the violence of the cannibalistic metaphor cannot claim any more civility than war and conquest. Antropofagia perhaps must be understood as an avant-garde with claims on both hegemonic and subordinated, effeminate masculinity, in contrast to the limited perspectives of futurismo and estridentismo. The contradiction hinted at by the questionable ethics of his romantic relationships with the women in antropofagia’s inner circle becomes clear when de Andrade’s own social status is considered in relation to the primitivism claimed for his nationalist aesthetic project:

Although de Andrade . . . was a Europeanized Brazilian and a member of the ruling elite, he attempts to speak in the ‘Cannibalist Manifesto’ as a descendent of the Tupi, not of the Vieira, as a son of the Great Snake, not of the [civilized] Bad Mother . . . . As a member of the oligarchical elite . . . he was appropriating a cannibalist identity from a race to which he did not belong. The politics of de Andrade’s gesture are thus a little less clear than they have been assumed to be . . . . Because of [his] debt . . . to European modernism in general . . . de Andrade can only with difficulty claim to speak from the position of the indigenous Brazilian cannibal. (Noland 416)

As a function of the aesthetics of technology and violence in his writing, as well as of his personal biography, then, de Andrade embodies a dominant hegemonic masculinity that undercuts his simultaneous attempt to recuperate subordinated masculinity to a position of respectability. Loy analogously occupied the otherwise contradictory position of feminist championing women by encouraging their masculinity, and of privileged British subject speaking from a place of cultural authority through a minority culture movement. Indeed, as evidenced by the purposes of Italian fascism and colonial expansion, the original demand to which futurismo responded was a sense of national backwardness and weakness in the hierarchy of the world order. If de Andrade could claim a position of superiority within his own nation, his identification with the primitivism of the Futurist avant-garde could only have been in regards to an international outlook. Identities of masculinity, even identities in general, thus appear more fluid than they are often thought to be. Dominant traits in one sphere can signify inferiority in a broader context, adding a new dimension to the interpretation of the avant-gardes. These movements appeared both as the venerated, privileged heights of their respective domestic cultures and as provocative parvenus when they introduced themselves internationally.

The fairly straightforward identification of the Italian Marinetti’s aesthetic and ideological principles, as outlined in list format in his “Manifeste du futurisme,” are undoubtedly anything but simple when taken in light of their complex motivations as well as refigurations later in the 20th century literary avant-garde through Maples Arce’s Mexican estridentismo and de Andrade’s Brazilian antropofagia. The exaltation of modern technology clearly recognizable under the label of futurismo in truth is only the tip of an iceberg composed of bravado, intended to raise Italy’s international cultural status while ensconcing pride in primitivism and reactionary concepts of governmental and sexual politics. This formula, however, proved effective enough to appeal to Ibero-American nations under similar degraded circumstances, yet their crucial experiences of colonialism firsthand may have helped to modify and naturalize Marinetti’s influence to apply to the New World. Particularly the political professions of futurismo became reshaped into leftist and social reformist modes for Maples Arce and de Andrade, although without being able to deny their dependence on the movement they outswept. Notwithstanding some of the possible improvements that estridentismo and antropofagia may have made to Marinetti’s controversial program, they too also combine strands of hegemony and heterogeneity into paradoxical amalgamations of power structures. The inherent project of the avant-garde may be an effort to negotiate power not just among nations, but in a metaphorically related struggle, also between genders. The cannibalistic impulse identified and brought to its culmination by de Andrade with antropofagia was evidently a quality of futurismo all along, coming to force successively within contexts that gave meaning not only to its pragmatic artistic effects, but especially and uniquely to its superbly apt metaphor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note

  1. Quotations and titles taken from the French, Italian, and Portuguese refer to the original editions given in the works cited list. The translations of Manuel Maples Arce’s Spanish-language works are my own, from my forthcoming MA thesis entitled “Introduction to the Complete Early Works of Manuel Maples Arce: 1921-1927.” More information about my translation practices can be found therein.

 

 

Works Cited

Andrade, Oswald de. “Cannibalist Manifesto.” 1928. Trans. Leslie Bary. Latin American Literary Review 14.27 (1986): 35-47. PDF file.

—. “Manifesto of Pau-Brazil Poetry.” 1924. Trans. Stella M. de Sá Rego. Latin American Literary Review 14.27 (1986): 184-187. PDF file.

—. “O manifesto antropófago.” Ed. Gilberto Mendonça. Vanguarda européia e modernismo brasileiro: apresentação e crítica dos principais manifestos vanguardistas. 3rd ed. Petrópolis: Vozes, 1976. Print.

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