David Lowenthal, John dos Passos, and Movement in the Brazilian Scene

Authors: Samuel T Brandt*, University of California - Los Angeles
Topics: History of Geography, Latin America, Historical Geography
Keywords: historical geography, cultural landscapes, Brazil, frontiers, John dos Passos, David Lowenthal
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Inspired by David Lowenthal’s 1968 essay “The American Scene” in the Geographical Review, this paper is part of a larger research agenda that works towards building a conception of the “Brazilian Scene”. Using Lowenthal’s framework, I identify three most salient characteristics of the Brazilian landscape: 1) movement, 2) the future, and 3) ufanismo, a vainglorious national pride based in the excesses of Brazil’s natural offerings. This paper focuses on movement. The first part of the paper discusses how Brazil stands out as a most fruitful and critical place to examine through the lens of symbolic landscapes and “a national scene” posited in Lowenthal’s paper and in the work of Anglo-American contemporaries such as Donald Meinig. The second part of the paper closely analyzes John dos Passos’s 1963 travelogue 'Brazil on the Move', following his various paths into the Brazilian frontier to identify five implications of the primacy of movement in the Brazilian scene: 1) movement is not just about abstract ideas and capital but involves individuals, 2) movement toward the frontier was notoriously hasty and often improvised, 3) an optimistic sense of belief and enthusiasm undergirded this movement, 4) this movement has not been aimless, but rather directed at the future, and 5) that movement in Brazil has often been presented as a solution to problems.

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