Clarice Lispector

The Abyss I am Made Of: an Introduction to Clarice Lispector

Instructor: Paige Sweet
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

Clarice Lispector, born to Ukrainian parents who fled to Brazil from interwar pogroms, made an indelible stamp on the literature of her adopted homeland—and on modern literary sensibility more broadly. Upending conventions (both generic and grammatical), Lispector philosophized in colloquial terms, cultivating an air of idiosyncratic mystery that still attaches to her writing as well as her persona nearly half a century after her death. As the (Lispector-like) narrator of The Passion According to G.H. declares, “It is because I dove in the abyss that I am beginning to love the abyss I am made of.” Her novels, often intensively protracted interior monologues, have been deemed hermetic, introspective, difficult, and still no consensus exists as to what they mean—only that they belong in a category of their own. Lispector’s writing—including novels as well as short stories, children’s books, and crônicas—has fascinated generations of readers precisely for its provocative otherworldliness. But how might we read Lispector’s work for all the ways it speaks to and about—even if obliquely and enigmatically—this shared world of ours?

In this course, we will survey Lispector’s expansive work, reading several of her nine novels, including The Passion According to G.H. and Hour of the Star, as well as selected crônicas and short stories, as we explore how the unconventional peculiarities of her prose play with, and against, the themes of her texts. With the aid of scholarly works by the likes of Hélène Cixous and Marta Peixoto, we will contextualize Lispector’s fictions historically and politically: How, if at all, did Lispector’s writing respond to political events in Brazil—including feminist movements and the military dictatorship? If there is a mystical quality to her writing, is this legible as a search for the divine, for humanization? What to make of her odd punctuation? Are such marks another aspect of the glamor (the enchantment, the learnedness) of her writing?

“The Abyss I am Made Of: an Introduction to Clarice Lispector” will also be held in-person, at BISR Central (68 Jay Street, #308, Brooklyn), starting Thursday, July 13th. For more information, please visit the course page.

Course Schedule

Tuesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
July 11 — August 01, 2023
4 weeks


Registration Open