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Easy Women: Sex and Gender in Modern Mexican Fiction

Debra A. Castillo
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttttqhq
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  • Book Info
    Easy Women
    Book Description:

    Combining early twentieth-century novels, current best-selling pulp fiction, and testimonial narratives, Castillo explores how Mexican writers have positioned the “easy woman” in their works.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8894-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Chapter 1 Ellipses and Intersections
    (pp. 1-36)

    I begin with two anecdotes about Mexican women who have transgressed unwritten gender boundaries. The first comes from anthropologist Oscar Lewis’s reports on his twenty-year interactions with the family of Pedro Martínez, a campesino from a small town Lewis called Azteca (Tepoztlán), located in the state of Morelos. At one point in the narration, Martínez talks about his youth and mentions that “lots and lots of women went into the fields in those days to help their families. The men would send the women into the fields and would even play around with them there.” Martinez immediately goes on to...

  5. Chapter 2 Meat Shop Memories: Gamboa
    (pp. 37-62)

    Gritty verisimilitude evoked and elided is at the heart of Federico Gamboa’s perennially popular novel,Santa.Critics and historians coincide in pointing out the importance of loose women to Mexico’s developing sense of a national identity. Brothels were an important gathering place for the Mexican elite during the presidency of Porfirio Díaz at the beginning of the century, and the concept ofla venta del placer[selling pleasure] remains, as Carlos Monsiváis notes, one of the central tenets of a sophisticated Mexican erotic system, a tenet that clearly applies exclusively to the male half of the population: “[L] a noción...

  6. Chapter 3 Desire in the Streets: Rulfo, Garro
    (pp. 63-99)

    The scandal of novels likeSantalies partly in their inversion of inherited narrative conventions that maintain that the proper subject for narrative involving male-female relationships is one involving honor on his side and virtue on hers. From Golden Age plays like Calderón’sEl médico de su honrato popular romances like Isaacs’sMaría,feminine virtue is correlated not only with identity and inner value but also with conditions of readability and narratability themselves. Gamboa’s focus on the fallen woman, though aestheticized and patronizingly distanced, still opens up new narrative possibilities. In contrast with traditional tales focusing on feminine virtue,...

  7. Chapter 4 Deterritorializing Women’s Bodies: Castillo, Campbell
    (pp. 100-134)

    The broken rhythms and textual hesitancies explored in the previous chapters are differently nuanced and more strongly colored in texts like those of Federico Campbell and Ana Castillo that explicitly play the expectations of two cultural realities against each other. Lust and the porosities of a desire turned unspeakable give shape to Rulfo’s story and to Garro’s novel. In Campbell and Castillo, too, carnal desire is the framing image of their narratives, and in the case of these latter two authors the writing of that need is inflected by a consciousness of complications arising from a specifically borderized sense of...

  8. Chapter 5 Reading Women Sefchovich
    (pp. 135-159)

    Another side of the seam, or another seam, can be explored in the conjunction of a gender-conscious woman author and her female reader. As Jean Franco recognizes, the problem of the writing—and the reading—woman is particularly acute in intensely gender-divided countries like Mexico. Following upon a discussion of Octavio Paz’s appropriation of La Malinche for his poetical theorization of Mexicanness, she concludes:

    The problem of national identity was thus presented primarily as a problem ofmaleidentity, and it was male authors who debated its defects and psychoanalyzed the nation. In national allegories, women became the territory over...

  9. Chapter 6 Signifyin’, Testifyin’: Mora, Bandida, Serrano
    (pp. 160-214)

    In his bookWomen for Hire,Alain Corbin writes that the nineteenth-century ethnographic study of Parisian prostitutes by Alexandre Parent-Duchatelet was so influential it not only affected later studies of prostitution in France and in other countries but also — albeit indirectly — became a force shaping women’s lives: “Parent-Duchatelet’s portrait of the prostitute was repeated so often in the literature on prostitution and inspired so many novelists that, in addition to distorting the vision of later researchers,... it determined to some extent the behavior of the prostitutes themselves” (Corbin 1990, 7). What I find fascinating about this quote is Corbin’s contention...

  10. Chapter 7 No Conclusions
    (pp. 215-242)

    Jonathan Culler has usefully summarized the functions of the literary image of the prostitute in nineteenth-century France as “a structure through which a number of elements of modernity can be situated,” and his comments resonate with the modern Mexican literary scene as well. Literary prostitutes (1) make visible the effects of modern capitalism, especially threats of social disorder accompanying the emergence of a proletariat on the edge of misery; (2) fascinate writers as a source of plots; (3) are scandalous both for their display of artifice and for their ability to pass as decent women; (4) represent the commodification of...

  11. Appendix: Transcripts
    (pp. 243-252)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 253-260)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 261-270)
  14. Index
    (pp. 271-276)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-277)