The Imperial Eyes of the Outsider: Elizabeth Bishop, American Globalization, and the Cold War in Brazil

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)


Once considered reticent and apolitical, Elizabeth Bishop is now seen as a radical social critic due to her differential sexual identity. This essay argues that critics have overlooked the way she participated in American globalization precisely as a lesbian writer. Bishop bravely resisted the norms of Cold War “containment culture” and constructed her own transnational feminist literary network while living in Brazil in the 1950s and ‘60s. At the same time, she favored US investment, the control of inflation at the expense of populist initiatives, and America-friendly politicians such as her close friend Carlos Lacerda. When Kennedy became president in 1961, Bishop committed herself enthusiastically to the Alliance for Progress, which many Brazilians came to view as a neocolonial project,especially when the US supported the increasingly repressive military dictatorship that came to power in 1964. Her writing systematically discredits reformist and radical initiatives by president Joao Goulart, organized labor,and farmers. Although Bishop sometimes played a progressive role at a national level, the public stances she took in Brazil were in keeping with herprerogatives as a traveler in the age of American hegemony. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1057-1088
Number of pages32
JournalELH - English Literary History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2019



  • American Literature
  • Poetry
  • Postcolonial Studies
  • Queer Studies

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