The aim of the present article is to define and re-evaluate the literary, philosophical and religious affiliations which inform the poetry of the Brazilian author Francisca Júlia da Silva Münster (1871 – 1920). Born and resident in São Paulo state, Francisca Júlia was active as an intellectual, educator and author from 1885 to 1916, and established her status as one of the pre-eminent poets of the era during the middle phase of Brazil’s First Republic (1889 – 1930). Francisca Júlia’s aesthetics were fundamentally rooted in a metaphysical worldview which related to the existence of a supreme Absolute, an ideal truth which is indistinguishable from the principle of beauty, permanent, everlasting, and transcending time altogether. The poet’s belief in this ideal principle, her aspirations towards it, and her own place within the material, visible world of time in which she, and all human life resides, forms the foundation of all her poetic creation. These preoccupations became still more marked towards the end of the poet’s life, and had a multidimensional aspect, deriving variously from a belief in a Christian God, a certain interest in Eastern religions, and philosophies derived from Greek and classical sources, in particular those informed by Pythagorean and Platonic cosmology.
It is this aspect of Francisca Júlia’s work that my article addresses, beginning from the premise that the poet’s manifold religious and spiritual beliefs are the informing principle behind her poetic vocation, the motive for the original choice of the Parnassian aesthetic as the principal frame of reference for her earliest work, and the consistent theme which underpins the diverse content of both Mármores and Esfinges. My aim, therefore, is to contest the accepted critical view of Francisca Júlia’s work as fundamentally derivative in nature, and of interest only insofar as the formal qualities of her work are related to the named poetic movements of her era, whether Parnassianism or Symbolism, and credible only inasmuch as they provide further insight into the broader literary trends in Brazil of the late nineteenth century. This is not to dispute Francisca Júlia’s close affinity with the wider contexts of the Brazilian fin-de-siècle, nor her engagement with the prevailing literary movements of her era, but to relate these more closely to the diverse religious and metaphysical beliefs which were fundamental to her poetic practice. In this way, I hope to reconcile the three aspects of Francisca Júlia’s work named above, and attain an integrated overview of her poetic trajectory, taking as my point of departure the aesthetic choices the poet made from the outset of her career.