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Reading the Body Politic

Reading the Body Politic: Feminist Criticism and Latin American Women Writers

Amy K. Kaminsky
Copyright Date: 1993
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Reading the Body Politic
    Book Description:

    Proposes a Latin American feminist criticism that is both regionally specific and in current dialogue with North American and European feminist practices.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8380-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Amy Kaminsky
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    More than a quarter century ago the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral wrote that Latin American women no longer feared to write because they had come to possess “the language in abundance.” Since Mistral’s time the number of women throughout Latin America creating the continent’s literary language as they have taken possession of it has multiplied. The critical response to their writing has also grown, although it in no way begins to approach the amount of attention paid to Latin America’s men of letters. The Colombian novelist Albalucía Angel has remarked, a little ruefully, that the only people she ever sees...

  5. 1 Translating Gender
    (pp. 1-13)

    It came as no surprise to speakers of more than one language when theorists noted that language was not a transparent vehicle for the expression of reality. Words and experience create each other within culture, and what should be the most direct line from one language to another, what we call “literal translation,” in fact connotes incompleteness of meaning. Furthermore, the slippage that occurs when we shift from one language to another does not take place in a cultural and political vacuum. In the United States, translation occurs within the constraints of hegemonic notions of particular languages, attached to particular...

  6. 2 Gender as Category and Feminism as Strategy in Latin American Literary Analysis
    (pp. 14-26)

    In Pablo Neruda’sCanto general, the tearful son returns to the lap of his mother, and the virgin continent is violated by North American companies. Octavio Paz organizes his analysis of the Mexican national character inEl laberinto de la soledadaround the taken-for-granted, conflated notions of Indian and female passivity, and domination by means of European, masculine violation. Marta Lynch’s protagonist inLa alfombra rojaassociates political power with sexual domination, though later he is horrified to see his metaphor made material as he whips the chaotic, malleable, implicitly feminine crowd into such a sexual frenzy that two people...

  7. 3 The Presence in Absence of Exile
    (pp. 27-46)

    To get to the presence of women writers in Latin America we must traverse the terrain of its apparent opposite. It is in their absence that women have loomed in traditional accounts of the region’s literature. The inclusion of a handful of them in the official histories underscores each one’s apparent exceptionality. For the few whose writing is widely acknowledged, as well as for those whose names are rarely mentioned, absence is a complex and burdened notion. It is a Pandora’s box of meaning, containing silence and invisibility, censorship and self-censorship, disappearance and exile.

    The psychoanalytic school that is often...

  8. 4 Body/Politics: Alicia Partnoy’s The Little School
    (pp. 47-59)

    As resistance to the threat of annihilation, “presence” must be interactive. It requires not only speaker but also respondent, whose willingness to answer the cry of “Presente” affirms mutually held values and beliefs. In its overtly political engagement of both writer and reader, testimonial writing is an extended version of the revolutionary cry of, and call to, presence. In some instances testimony is written down and distributed by intermediaries. In Alicia Partnoy’s case, the writer herself is the revolutionary presence who asserts herself and survives. Nonetheless, Partnoy’s book is the product not only of her own experience and labor, but...

  9. 5 Gaby Brimmer: A Life in Three Voices
    (pp. 60-76)

    The technical devices of fiction that Alicia Partnoy handles so deftly do not keepThe Little Schoolfrom being read as testimony. Conversely, the traditional collaborative process that usually marks testimonial literature does not quite makeGaby Brimmera testimonial work.¹ Partnoy’s public, political engagement with oppositional politics is denied to Brimmer, whose struggle on behalf of disabled people is neither quite the center of her text, nor yet even recognized as political.

    Gaby Brimmeris a nonfiction text whose authorship is shared, but also contested.² It is a text that asserts the subjectivity of a disabled woman even as...

  10. 6 The Uses and Limits of Foreign Feminist Theory Elena Garro’s Los recuerdos del porvenir
    (pp. 77-95)

    The Little Schooloccupies the ground between fiction and nonfiction, with its autobiographical tales out of school refracted through the poet’s vision and the story-writer’s craft, andGaby Brimmerresists generic classification, but Elena Garro’sLos recuerdos del porveniris unmistakably a novel.¹ Its characters move through the recognizable landscape of southern Mexico, but their story is invented only in part out of the materials of Mexico’s recent history. It is above all fashioned from the store of plots and possibilities of Western literary tradition. Although Garro invents two women characters who try to break free of the traditional stories,...

  11. 7 Sylvia Molloy’s Lesbian Cartographies Body, Text, and Geography
    (pp. 96-114)

    The repression of women’s sexuality inLos recuerdos del porvenirin the form of punishment, disappearance, and marginality is one of the motors of the novel, with sexual energy constantly threatening to erupt in the public and political realm. Yet even repressed, women’s sexuality in Garro’s novel is necessarily heterosexual. The single hint of lesbianism there is so explosive that it is immediately recuperated as asexual and self-referential. The twin sisters who share a bed so sensually also turn their soldier-abductor out of that bed, thus excising the sign of sexuality and power, the military phallus. The sisters are left...

  12. 8 Cristina Peri Rossi and the Question of Lesbian Presence
    (pp. 115-134)

    I return to Cristina Peri Rossi in this chapter to address the intersection of politics, gender, and sexuality that I have argued must be the crux of a Latin American feminist criticism, and also to confront the irony that in any individual text by Peri Rossi these elements rarely meet head-on. Though she has stated that she considers sexual freedom and the end of class and gender oppression as part of the same revolutionary agenda it would be a mistake to assume that when Peri Rossi deals with gender, or lesbianism, or class, or colonialism she invokes them all.¹ Instead,...

  13. Afterword: In the Realm of the Real
    (pp. 135-136)

    Latin American feminist criticism, however academic, is a return to the concrete. It is a criticism that, through both its sources, understands the power and treachery of language, a language that belongs to the other—the privileged male subject or the powerful apparatus of the state, or the mass media, or the European colonizer—a language, therefore, that must be stolen, asserted, reinvented, always treated cautiously. Where so much is at stake, the mesmerizing effects of pure theory are brought up short with a jolt, and history, ethics, and responsibility are brought forcefully back into play.

    This book, then, has...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 137-156)
  15. Index
    (pp. 157-160)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 161-161)