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Tomaz Amorim (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil)

Tomaz Amorim

Tomaz Amorim
Image Credit: Private

Fellow in Research Area 1: "Competing Communities" 

July – December 2021

Oswald de Andrade and Walter Benjamin: Modernist Critique of Modernity

One of the breakthroughs of Brazilian modernist writers like Oswald de Andrade (1890–1954) was to subvert an operating "literary teleology": the idea that colonial art would follow the same historical steps of the metropolitan. Through experimental procedures developed in Europe as well as the acknowledgement of traditional practices - both indigenous and afrobrazilian - they were able to offer not only a different future but a different relation with the past and therefore with temporality itself. If the same process was being developed in Europe (such as the appropriation of the colonies' so-called "primitivist" by French artists), in Brazil they did not come from a distant time and space but were still present in the streets and forests of the "developing" land.

On the other side of the Atlantic, German philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892 -1940) offered an important reflection about the aesthetic changes brought with Modernity and the decay of tradition. Being at the global center of this Modernization - but also being part of a persecuted minority - Benjamin was able to combine avantgardistic elements (such as the technique of montage, Psychoanalysis and Marxist critique) with "traditional" Jewish theology and mysticism. Through this complex construction comprised of innovation and active relation with tradition, he was able to offer an alternative image of Modernity, as, for example, through his introduction of a messianic temporality in historic materialism (in opposition to the accelerationism of both capitalists and Soviets).

What both Oswald and Benjamin’s work offer - and this is the interest of this research, to compare their "modernist critique of Modernity" - is the acknowledgment that different ways of narrating time existed and continue to exist after the processes of colonization/modernization and that global temporality is not the exclusivity of a European Modernity but that other cosmovisions compete and intertwine.

Tomaz Amorim (1988, Poá-Brazil) is a bachelor in Literary Studies (Unicamp), a Master in Literary History (Unicamp) and a PhD in Literary Theory (USP). He is currently associated as a Post-PhD researcher at Unicamp. During his training, he completed two academic internships in Germany, in Cologne (Universität zu Köln) and in Berlin (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin). He worked with German literature, critical theory and Brazilian modernism. He translated into Portuguese books by Franz Kafka, Walt Whitman and is currently translating "Das Mutterrecht" by Johann Jakob Bachofen. He has published articles in scientific journals and book chapters. He regularly collaborates with literary and cultural criticism in press vehicles in Brazil. He produces an ongoing podcast series in which he interviews Brazilian authors. He operates in the third sector as a coordinator at the Uneafro-Brazil. He has also published two books of poetry: "Plástico Pluma" (Urutau, 2018) and "Meia lua soco" (Primata, 2020).