The Sea Was Ever a Sertão: Terra Incognita in Moby-Dick and Grande sertão: veredas
In this article, I read João Guimarães Rosa’s Grande sertão: veredas as an extended contemplation of the Brazilian backlands region known as the sertão, comparing it with Herman Melville’s timeless novel Moby-Dick; or, the Whale, which I read in a similar vein (but with regard to the sea). In this analysis, sea and sertão overlap and become largely interchangeable. In doing so, I also comment on the importance of the way in which we conceive of nature in general, and of the sea and the sertão specifically. The article employs Jedediah Purdy’s idea of the environmental imagination and Steven Vogel’s concept of humility before nature as they relate to perceptions of the environment (and the world) through a literary lens. In short, my focus is on exploring how literary representations of nature can condition readers’ attitudes and behaviors toward it. After detailing the similarities between both narrators’ perceptions and descriptions of sea/sertão as incomprehensible spaces that invite narrators (and readers) to self-discovery, I discuss the potential effects these narratives can have in shaping readers’ perceptions of the environment and their relation to the world in which they live.
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