Maria Benedita Bormann

Maria Benedita Bormann (née Maria Benedita Bormann of Câmara Lima; November 25, 1853 – July 23, 1895) was a Brazilian writer.

Little is known about her formal education. She spoke French and English, and enjoyed drawing, painting, singing, and playing the piano. Born In Porto Alegre, Bormann was the daughter of a middle class civil servant. In 1863, when she was ten, the family moved to Rio de Janeiro, so that her father could take up a post at Court.

Her career as a writer started very early: when she was fourteen, Bormann started publishing short stories, essays, and chronicles in some of Rio de Janeiro’s newspapers, such as O Sorriso, O País, O Cruzeiro and Gazeta da Tarde. She signed her works under the pseudonym ‘Délia’.

On December 7, 1872, Bormann married her maternal uncle, José Bernardino Bormann, who was a military marshal who had served in the Paraguayan War and was about 9 years her senior. He spent long periods traveling on military missions, and served as Secretary of War for Brazil from 1910 to 1914. The couple did not spend much time together, Bormann remained in Rio de Janeiro while her husband was away, and they never had children. The writer Andradina de Oliveira, in the book A Mulher Riograndense (1907) wrote that Bormann had separated from her husband, but it is not certain whether that really happened: Bormann’s death certificate states that she was still married.

It is said that Bormann counted with her husband’s support for her literary career, and he also had literary ambitions of his own. She never stopped working as a journalist and novelist, and came to be considered the Brazilian “Emile Zola in skirts”.

In the 1880s, Bormann started to publish serialized novels which focused on the limitations to women’s freedom, especially in the professional and sexual fields. Bormann was one of the first Brazilian female writers to address, in her novels, topics such as female desire, separation, domestic violence, suicide, sexual education for women, the hypocrisy behind the institution of marriage as it was then regulated, and female adultery – and this, you can imagine, came to shock some male critics of the time.

Bormann also published several short stories and essays in the leading feminist periodicals in Brazil, such as A Familia, edited by Josefina Álvares de Azevedo, and A Mensageira, edited by Priciliana Duarte. Another importante female writer of this period, Júlia Lopes de Almeida also wrote for these periodicals.

Bormann’s work is considered naturalist and she is placed alongside writer Carmen Dolores (pseudonym of Emília Moncorvo Bandeira de Melo) as the two main female authors representative of naturalism in Brazilian literature. As for Bormann’s literary references, she mentions a myriad of writers in her works, such as Madame de Staël and George Sand – about the latter, Bormann wrote that Sand proved “how much genius can be hidden in a female chest.

The adoption of the pseudonym “Délia” (the epithet of the Greek goddess Artemis, born in Delos) points to Bormann’s literary persona, untamed and lonely. Délia is also a character in the Latin poet Albius Tibullus’ first book: it is said that she was his first love, a woman who had several lovers while married to a frequently absent military husband. By referring to Antiquity, the pseudonym also points to a rupture with the conception according to which the education of women should not comprise the knowledge of classics. In her own choice of pseudonym, Délia already breaks with this conception, by taking this knowledge as her own, and revealing a predilection for women who played an important role in classic narratives. Finally, the adoption of a Latin pseudonym was also a way of taking a political stand: in the decades the preceded the Republican regime in Brazil, the adoption of Latin names signified the support for the republican cause.

Bormann died of stomach ulcer, at her parents’ house, in Rio de Janeiro, on July 23, 1895, at the age of 41. Her work remained largely forgotten until the mid-1980s, when it began to be rediscovered by Brazilian feminists.

Books

  • Madalena (1881)
  • Estrelas Cadentes (1882)
  • Estela (1882)
  • Aurélia (1883)
  • Uma Vítima (1884)
  • Uma Vítima, Duas Irmãs, Madalena (1884)
  • Angelina (1886)
  • A estátua de neve (1890)
  • Lésbia (1890)
  • Celeste (1893)
  • Mylady (1895)

About her

  • “Maria Benedita Bormann”, by Norma Telles, IN: Escritoras brasileiras do século XIX, vol.I, org. Zahidé Muzart (1999)
  • “Escrita, escritoras, escrituras”, by Norma Telles, IN: História das mulheres no Brasil, org. Mary Del Priore (1997)
  • “Caelum ou ‘tinctura azul’”, by Norma Telles, IN: Trocando Ideais sobre mulher e literatura, org. Susana Bornéo Funck (1996)
  • “Autor+a”, by Norma Telles, IN: Palavras da crítica, org. José Luiz Jobim (1992)
  • Encantações. Escritoras e Imaginação Literária no Brasil, by Norma Telles (2012)
  • “Escritoras brasileiras no século XIX”, by Norma Telles, IN: Mulher: cinco séculos de desenvolvimento na América: capítulo Brasil, org. Sylvia Maria V. Auad (1999)
  • “Da exclusão, da imitação e da transgressão: o caso do romance Celeste, de Maria Benedita Bormann”, by Rita Teresinha Schmidt, IN: As armas do texto: literatura e a resistência da literatura, org. Michael Peterson (1998)
  • Sedução e heroísmo: imaginação de mulher (entre a República das Letras e a Belle Epoque – 1884-1911), by Regina R. Felix (2007)
  • Mulheres illustres do Brazil, by Ignez Sabino (1996)
  • “Uma espiada na imprensa das mulheres no século XIX.”, by Zahidé Lupinacci Muzart, Revista Estudos Feministas, nov 2003, pp. 225-233.
  • A modernidade na literatura brasileira escrita por mulheres: María Benedita Bormann e Emílla Bandeira De Melo (1884-1911), by Regina R. Felix (2003)
  • “O desafio ao cânone literário: Lésbia e o romance oitocentista de autoria femenina”, by Paula Cristina Cunha, Revista Graphos 14.2 (2012), pp. 153-163.
  • “Bormann, Maria Benedita (Délia)”, by Regina R. Felix, IN: Latin American Women Writers: An Encyclopedia, org. André, María. Claudia and Eva P. Bueno (2008), pp. 248-252.
  • “O suicídio em contos de Maria Benedita Bormann”, by Eliane Campello, Revista de Estudos em Língua e Literatura, v. 03, 2007, p. 03.
  • “Sob o olhar de Maria Benedita Bormann”, by Marlene Rodrigues Brandolt, Revista Educação e Linguagens, 3 (5), Jul- Dez 2014, pp. 165–74.
  • The Cambridge History of Latin American Women’s Literature, org. Illeana Rodríguez, Mónica Szurmuk (2015), p. 212.
  • One Hundred Years After Tomorrow: Brazilian Women’s Fiction in the 20th Century,  org. Darlene J. Sadlier (1992)
  • “Feminismo e literatura no Brasil”, by Constância Lima Duarte, Estudos Avançados, vol.17, n.49, 2003, pp.151-172.

2 thoughts on “Maria Benedita Bormann

  1. What an interesting profile! I have not heard of this writer before. Do you know if any of her works have ever been translated? I was also wondering if Clarice Lispector was aware of Maria B. Bormann…if you are going to read any of her works I´d love to read your posts!
    Andrea

    Like

    1. Thank you, Andrea! I don’t think Lispector read her, because there is no mention of it in her letters, and Bormann’s books only started to be rediscovered in the late 1980’s, when Lispector was already dead. I’ve just written a review of three of Bormann’s novels. 🙂

      Like

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