The intellectual, the artist and the masses in Portuguese culture at the end of the century
During the 19th century, educated European elites participated extensively in the squabbles and discussions promoted in and by the press, and we cannot write the history of contemporary culture without relating it to
the development of public space over that century and in its transition to the 20th century. However, this alliance between the man of letters and the press – a typical device of the 19th century public sphere that, in fact, would give rise to the name “publicist” in the second half of the century, corresponds to a metamorphosis of the “public writer” status in classical romanticism – soon began to creak as the public sphere was influenced by the industrialisation and massification of cultural objects, a process initiated in the United States in the second half of the century, the echo of which in France was closely accompanied by the historical evolution in Portugal. It was against this combined backdrop, from the last quarter of the Portuguese 19th century, of a change in the market of cultural assets, of the appearance of a urban culture of the masses and of crisis de affecting the educated elites, especially in the literary field, that the figure
of the “artist” slowly emerged as an alternative to the diffused figure of the “man of letters” triggered in the last decade of the 19th century. The reading of Fradique Mendes – half character, half author, proto-heteronym in Eça de Queiroz’s fiction – and of Fradiquism as an ideology, we note its symbolic value as the last attempt to overcome the death of the 19th century intellectual through the affirmation of the artist’s role. In other words, Fradique Mendes appears, in a context of emerging massification, a metaphor of the
crisis affecting the old intellectual paradigm of the 19th century, which, pursuing a “lost aura of culture”, wavers between the silence of giving up, as defended by Eça de Queirós, who saw himself as a kind of “cenobite”, and the chance of the artist building a new expression of the educated elite.
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