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International - Brazil] Orta, Thereza Margarida.

Aventuras de Diofanes.


Third Edition of
Brazil's First Novel:
Written by a Woman
[Brazil]. [Orta, Thereza Margarida]. De Gusmao, Alexandre, pseud. Aventuras de Diofanes. Lisboa: Na Regia Officina Typografica, 1790.
8vo.; all edges stained red; full calf, spine stamped in gilt; covers rubbed, but interior sound. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
Third edition, with the title page followed by a two page dedication and seven page prologue; followed by 328 numbered text pages and a single unnumbered page headed "Protestacao." Authorship is attributed on the title page and in the preface to the diplomat, economist, and royal councilor Alexandre de Gusmao (1695-1753), who strongly influenced SeO's anti-absolutist ideas and opposed slavery. But as one researcher at the Lilly Library wrote in 1972, "[r]ecent studies … have affirmed that the pseudonym Dorothea Engrassia Tavareda Dalmira is that of Thereza Margarida Orta, a native of Sao Paulo, and sister to Matias Aires Ramos da Silva Eca," author of Reflexoes sobre a vaidade dos homens ("Brazil from Discovery to Independence: An Exhibition Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Brazilian Independence on September 7, 1822," Lilly Library, 1972, p. 63).
First published in 1743 as Maximes de virtude, Brazil's first novel, Aventuras de Diofanes, was a political narrative with feminist undertones. And though the fact would not be known in her lifetime, the author was a woman. Irwin Stern writes in the Dictionary of Brazilian Literature that "Orta is considered Brazil's first woman novelist," and that her novel
aimed to instruct the ruler how to govern in order to achieve a perfect society…. She was against slavery, enthusiastic about science, and believed in the education of the common people. She … treated feminine problems with a realism based on experience … it has a great deal of historical interest and appeal based on its feminism 'avant-la-lettre.' (pp. 230-1)
Samuel Putnam calls Aventuras not a novel, but one of two "definite precursors" to the "first real novel that Brazil produced," which he claims was published in 1844. Orta's work is "remarkable, among other things, for the interest in the natural sciences … a forerunner of the modern novel of ideas or social novel … it deserves a place among the classics of Brazilian literature." (The other "precursor" is A.G. Teixeira e Sousa's The Fisherman's Son (1843), of which Ruy Bloem wrote, "They did not thereby cease to be Brazilians. If Portugal desires to incorporate them in her own literary history, we have an equal right to regard them as our own.") (Marvelous Journey, pp. 137-8).
Borba de Moraes, in 1958, cited Ennes: "All the editions of Thereza Margarida's work are very rare in Portugal, and our efforts to see especially the 1790 edition have been in vain." The Lilly Library exhibit referenced above produced only the first two editions. Moraes added, "it is evident that this book is very rare, and of the greatest importance of our literary chronology," and concluded definitively, "This work is considered to be the first novel written by a Brazilian" (Borba de Moraes, 1983, II, pp. 635-7; Borba de Moraes, 1958, I, pp. 348-9).

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