Freudian Wordplay in Macunaíma

  • Dylan Blau Edelstein Princeton University
Keywords: Modernism, psychoanalysis, literature, Brazil, Mário de Andrade


This essay approaches Mário de Andrade’s use of Sigmund Freud’s writings as a tool for linguistic exploration in his 1928 novel Macunaíma. Drawing upon previous research into Andrade’s personal study of psychoanalysis, I first analyze the explicit reference to Freud in the novel’s “Carta pras Icamiabas” as a critique of uninformed and mechanical citations of psychoanalytic theory. This launches me into an analysis of Andrade’s recurrent use of two sexually-charged words, “brincar” and “graça,” and how they demonstrate a much more creative dialogue with Freud’s work. I conclude by considering Andrade’s characterization of Macunaíma as a “symptom,” rather than a “symbol” of Brazilian culture, reflecting on how we can read his use of Freud within a larger negotiation of the European literary canon and colonial forces of repression.