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Quest and Romance in Lispector’s “Uma aprendizagem ou O livro dosprazeres”. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. A narragaodo romanceutiliza-se ao mesmo tempo lisppector outratramaformulaica,esta bem mais comum na obrade Lispector: A analise aqui empreendida concentra-se no relacionamento entre estes dois fios estruturaise tematicos,partindoda constatagcode que as aprecia96escriticasde Umaaprendizagemtem em geral aprendizatem em demonstrarou uma simbiose entreos objectivos distintosde amore de aprendizagem,ou, pelo contrario,uma relacaoantag6nicaentreestes, sobretudono que diz respeitoao desenvolvimentoda personagemfemininaL6ri.
A minhaconclusao 6 que o romance representa antes uma complexa articulagSonarrativabaseada no modelo de “ambiguidadede possibilidades” Paul Dixonn5o permitindoa determina9aounivoca da sua mensagem ideol6gica. Uma aprendizagemou 0 livro dos prazeres, ClariceLispector’ssixth novel, has been termedby the critics something of an anomalyas regardsthe Brazilianwriter’s other work. It is a story of a romance,”a philosophically serious love storyin the most complete llivro unifying sense of the term” Fitz Although love has rightly been identified as “one of Lispector’s most fundamentalthematicconcerns” ibidthe romanceplot has only on exceptional occasions given shape to this theme in her fiction.
As Roland Barthes has observed, love in itself has no story ; Lispector’streatmentof love most commonly underscoresits fundamentalnarrativeamorphousness,the singularlyscriptlessqualityof its blinding revelations. In Uma aprendizagem,by contrast,she inscribes this theme into a narratablestructure,articulatingit within a story that follows one of the most common, if by no means exclusive, scenarios of love: The novel’s two major charactersare a woman namedL6ri shortfor Loreley and a man namedUlisses, who meet after Lori moves from her native Camposto Rio de Janeiroin searchof personalfreedom and a new life.
Althoughdrawnto each otherfromthe beginning,Ulisses andL6ridelay the physical consummationof prszeres relationshipuntil they have both achieved self-realization as fully developed humanbeings. This “novelisticpas-de-deux” Marting 19 is therefore also a story of a quest, a typical Lispectorianplot that sends many of her characterson intense, solitarypursuitsof self, of self-awarenessandauthenticityof being FitzAlthough in Uma aprendizagemboth Lori and Ulisses go througha process of individual Bildung, it has to be stressedoutrightthat L6ri is the one who has infinitely more to lear thanher lover-to-be: Ulisses “diziade si mesmo que estavaem plena aprendizagem,mastao alem dela que ela se transformavaem infimo corpo vazio e doloroso, apenasisso” For critics such as Earl Fitz, Richard A.
Mazzara and Lorri A. Parris, the uniqueness of Uma aprendizagemresides also in the fact that its two charactersactually manage to accomplish both goals which they set out to pursue: According to Mazzaraand Parris, “L6riis that rareCharacterin Clarice’s fiction who makes the right choice and is therefore successful in her aprednizagem In brief, DuPlessis concentrateson the antitheticalrelationshipbetween love andquest in plots dealingwith women, as dramatized in nineteenth-centuryfiction, and contrastsit with the projectof twentieth-centurywomen writerswho, in her words, strive to “solve the contradictionbetween love and questandto replace the alternateendings in marriageand death that are their cultural legacy For the writersselected by DuPlessis, the narrative site from which they undertaketheirscrutinyandrevisionof the lispectorr canon is precisely the romanceplot, in its traditionalformthe main villain of the literaryheritagedescribedby the critic: The romance plot separateslove and quest.
If we accept the revisionist paradigmas the dominantideological orientationof twentieth-centurywomen lidpector, Lispector’s apparentcelebrationof romancein Uma aprendizagemappearsas an oddly anachronisticenterprise. So it comes as no surprisethat the novel has also elicited a numberof readingswhich more or less aprenidzagem ideal wholesomeness of its ending. In that final exchange, the lyric pathos and philosophical intensity that characterizethe novel’s discourseand Lispector’sfiction in generalstill clarjce L6ri and Ulisses talk of God, love and human identity; however, their conversationalso turns to social class, expectations and values, whereuponUlisses instructsL6ri to startpracticing birth control and recommendsthat they should get married”parafacilitar” Diane Martingreadsthe novel’s resolutionas the femaleprotagonist’sregressivesubmissionto the traditional patterns of male-female relations 18 ; whether or not aprehdizagem agree with that interpretation,it is difficult to disregardthat final twist of the claricee, particularlysince it is mirrored by another instance of narrative disharmony at the conclusion of Uma aprendizagem: Having plunged,at its outset,into a sortof discursivemediasres-it startsin umw sentence and its first typographic sign is a comma-the novel likewise ends with a punctuationmark,namely a colon which foreverpreventsthe readerfrom finding out what Ulisses’ thoughts are on the weighty issue of the relationshipbetween God and human beings.
Formally, this is the most extreme among Lispector’s often open-endednarrative structures;likewise andby contrast,the conventionalhappyendingof the romancebetween L6ri and Ulisses comes off as an anomaly when compared to the far less conclusive resolutions of works such as A maca no escuro, A paixao segundo G. Partakingof the crude reliability of physical consummation,the aprenrizagem plots of quest and romancethat structurethe relationshipbetween L6ri and Ulisses converge into what Peter Brooks calls “a fully predicated,andreadable,sentence” Conversely,the discourse of the novel makes emphaticallyexplicit its refusalto become containedin such a sentence.
The dissonance between the orderlysyntax of the novel’s story and the anarchy of its discoursewould seem perfectlysuited to illustrateDuPlessis’ contentionthat in those fictional works whose female protagonistsnegotiate the conflicting demandsof love and quest by subordinatingtheir individual apprenticeshipto the requirementsof successful This content downloaded from Feminist irony is indeed a promising formula to follow in interpretingUma aprendizagem,as Ana Luiza Andradehas shown in her reading of the novel.
In other words, I propose to read Uma aprendizagem,along with its criticalinterpretations,as a complex enactmentof a figure we might call, following Paul B. Dixon, an “ambiguityof possibilities” livo which, in semiotic terms, can be said to derive from the presencein a work of artof a “doubleisotopy,”thatis, two coincidentbut colliding universes of discourse Dupriez Aprendizage, ambiguity of possibilities, as Dixon initially defines it in his Reversible Readings, a study of “ambiguityin four modem Latin Americannovels,” refers to visual figures that may be interpretedby the viewer as representingtwo differentobjects.
Both interpretationsare equally possible and both are lispechor incompatible: Readers of literarytexts find themselves particularlyoften involved in the interpretationof polysemic data: His definition of literaryambiguityrequiresthereforenot only thatthe text be composedof signs that are in some way multidirective,but that there be both a clear-cutincompatibilityand an imperative demand for the reader to make a choice between the conflicting interpretations.
It is only within this context thatthe novel becomes truly”ambiguous”in the sense definedby Dixon, the critical interpreterbeing ultimatelyforcedto choose whetherto readit as an uplifting,humanisttale of love triumphantor a sly feminist parody,not to say condemnation,of the romanceplot and male and female discursive and social conventions.
While the ambiguityof Uma aprendizagemis, to a significantdegree, a function of its conflicting interpretations,the novel itself contains numerous hints at its own “reversibility. Clearlysuggestive of the novel’s twin plots of questandromance, the title not only introducesthe theme of duality,but in fact suggests that the relationship between the componentsof its multiple binariesis likely to be problematic.
S The novel’s two protagonists form, of course, the most prominent of those binaries. The parallels between them are too close to accept their coming together as an arbitraryproductof novelistic chance: Both also bear names of mythical characters: As criticshave noted,they at the sametimefulfill their mythical roles and exchange them with one another: Ulisses, himself a seducer, at first conquers L6ri, only to metamorphoseinto a faithful Penelope awaiting for his beloved to complete her journey.
L6ri, even as she agrees to Ulisses’ terms and embarkson an epic voyage of self-discovery, continuesto behaveas a sirenwho charmsherresistantcompanion by wearingexpensive, tight dressesand applyingelaboratemake-upin preparationfor their dates.
While The Odyssey is clearly the most explicit among intertextualreferencesof Lispector’s novel, it is by no means the only mythical story being glossed or rewrittenin Uma aprendizagem. In one of the final episodes of herpersonalapprenticeship,L6rireturns home andnotices, on the table, a red applethatimmediatelyattractsandholds herundivided attention.
Having touched it, examined it, seen “as she had never before its roundnessand its scarlet color,” she finally takes one slow bite.
What happensnext is a reversal of the Gardenof Eden scenario;contraryto Eve, L6ri, by biting into the apple, achieves the state of grace: Porque alguma coisa desconhecida estava suavemente acontecendo. Era o comeco-de um estado de gra9a” This crucialepisode merely confirmsearliersuggestions within the discourse of the novel that the accountof L6ri and Ulisses’ romanceis also a rewritingof the biblical story of the first couple. L6ri’s “creation”as an autonomoushumanbeing is, however, both like and unlike Eve’s rising from Adam’s body.
Indeed, Ulisses refuses to become L6ri’s teacherin the literal sense of the word: No comeco Lorienganara-see pensaraque Ulisses queriaIhetransmitir algumas coisas das aulas de filosofia mas ele disse: And yet L6ri, on more than one occasion, acknowledges Ulisses as her mentorand superior: In this context, it is hardlysurprisingthat the category of genderitself should become subjectto the play of equivocal interpretations.
Uma aprendizagem, as comparedto Lispector’s earlier works, is far more emphatic in foregroundingthe genderof its protagonists,due bothto the novel’s thematicconcernsand the predominantlydialogic structureof its discourse Fitz This content downloaded from And it appearsthat it is precisely by virtue of having her protagonistslargely conformto traditional,culturally sanctionedgenderroles, that Lispectormanagesto createsuch powerful resonancearound anotherone of the novel’s key episodes: L6ri’s earlymorningbathin the sea, an experience that marksa turningpoint in the process of her apprenticeship.
The sea she encountersis a powerful presence, “a mais ininteligivel das existencias nao-humanas,”which the woman L6ri confronts as its perfectly matched other, “o mais ininteligivel dos seres onde circulavasangue” Their merging is presentedmanifestly as a sexual union whose two participantsfreely shareand exchange male and female roles and attributes.
At first, L6ri forcefully penetratesthe sea: A mulher e agora uma compacta e uma leve e uma aguda-e abre caminho na gelidez que, liquida, se op6e a ela, e no entanto a deixa entrar,como no amor em que a oposi,ao pode ser um pedido secreto.
Uma aprendizagem ou o Livro dos prazeres: Agencia Literaria Carmen Balcells
And, while returningto the beach, L6ri is both a woman anda phallicconqueror: What occurs in thatexquisitely written,brief chaptermay be seen as a reversalof one of Lispector’s own classic stories, “A mensagem” from the volume A Legiao estrangeira Where “A mensagem”chartsthe coming of age of its two adolescent protagonists yma depicting their “fall into cultural representationsof sexual difference” characterizedby rigidly and conventionallydefined genderroles Froulathe sea bath episode of Uma aprendizagem presents L6ri’s own coming into a different kind of adulthood as a falling out of the established orderand back into some sort of prehistoric cosmic livrro of androgyny: Ja nao precisade coragem,agoraja e antigano ritualretomadoque abandonaraha milenios” This recovered ritualplaces itself in an explicit contrastto an easily recognizableepisode of the Judeo-Christianheritage: Lori”[n]aoesta caminhandosobreas aguas-ah nuncafaria isso depois que ha milenios ja haviam andadosobre as aguas-mas ninguem Ihe tira isso: After her remarkableexperience, L6ri continuesto frequentthe beach, always in the early morninghourswhen the fresh smell of the sea makesher “giddywith happiness”: Era a maresia, palavrafeminina, mas para Lori o cheiro maresia era masculino.
Como explicarque o marerao seu ber9omatero mas que o cheiro era todo masculino? Talvez se tratasseda fusao perfeita. Alem de que, de madrugada,as dps brancas. In this This content downloaded from In fact, some of the strongestaffirmationsof sexualdifferenceatits most conventionaloccur,within the discourse of the novel, well after the sea bath episode, as in the scene where Ulisses, after he and L6ri have dined at an expensive restaurant,takes care of the fireplace: Ele, o homem, se ocupava aticandoo fogo.
Ela nem se lembrava de fazer o mesmo: Nao sendo donzela, que o homem entao cumprissea sua missao. O mais que fazia foi uma ou duas vezes instiga-lo: The storyof Uma aprendizagemprovesto be composed, in fact, of two different stories, reflected in the duality of the novel’s title and in the contradictoryinterpretationsit has inspired.
Its discourseandresolutionmay be called truly postmoder, in the sense LindaHutcheonattributesto such apreneizagem epithetsof our times as “decentered,””indeterminacy”and, uja notably, “postmoder” itself, epithets which paradoxicallypreservethe very signifiers they aim to contest 3. Payne and Fitz see such wilful duplicity aprendizagm a defining characteristicof Lispector’s aprendizxgem in general: The shortest summary of the ambiguous message carried by Lispector’s novel can thus perhapsbe found in the words of anotherof her works, which similarly,if less aprenddizagem, dramatizesconflictingplots of questandromance: Earl Fitz, although privileging a “straight,” celebratory reading of L6ri and Ulisses’ ds together in both quest and romance, neverthelesscommentson the ironyof attainingself-realizationthroughgiving oneself away in love University of Chicago Press, He also reviews a number of other, less semiotically precise definitions of ambiguity that have been employed in discussions kivro literary works.
A recent study that relies on a broadly conceived notion of ambiguity is JudithPayne’s and Earl E. Universityof Iowa Press,whose authorsdescribe This content downloaded from A hora da estrela and the posthumously published Um sopro de vida Although Uma aprendizagemis followed, within Lispector’s oeuvre, by the radicallymonologic Agua vivathis work’s experimental discourse takes nevertheless the quintessentiallydialogic form aprendizahem an epistolary novel, its nameless narratorwriting a long letterto her equally nameless lover.
Parris, who explain their decision in a footnote.