Octopuses and Other Sea Beings in Brazilian Literature: Animal Agency inJoão Guimarães Rosa’s Aquário (Nápoles)


In this presentation, I focus on the analysis of animal agency in the 1970 – short story „Aquário (Nápoles)“ (Aquarium (Naples)) by Brazilian writer João Guimarães Rosa. In this story, the narrator describes a moment observing one octopus in an aquarium in the city of Naples, specifically: how the animal acts after being poked by one of the guards. I propose an analysis of the octopus‘ agency as a captive animal towards its environment and the other beings; I do so considering the concept of agency as a „relational field“ as stated by Carter and Charles in „Animals, agency and resistance“, as well as other works on the field, such as Helen Steward.


Ana Carloina Torquato is an animal and literary studies scholar working on animals in Brazilian literature. Her PhD thesis presents a history of Brazilian literature through the lens of animal studies under the title Animal Representation in Brazilian Literature: From Ecological Imperialism to Animals as Agents. The thesis identifies seven recurrent themes in Brazilian literature: colonised animals, idealised animals, national animals, animalised humans, domestic animals, animals as subjects, and animals as agents. Each piece is exemplified and analysed with selected literary texts that portray animals and animality in these situations. The research is the result of a collaboration between Torquato, the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut zu Berlin, and the University of Potsdam, Germany.