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A Companion to Latin American Women Writers

A Companion to Latin American Women Writers

Brígida M. Pastor
Lloyd Hughes Davies
Series: Monografías A
Volume: 304
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    A Companion to Latin American Women Writers
    Book Description:

    This volume offers a critical study of a representative selection of Latin American women writers who have made major contributions to all literary genres and represent a wide range of literary perspectives and styles. Many of these women have attained the highest literary honours: Gabriela Mistral won the Nobel Prize in 1945; Clarice Lispector attracted the critical attention of theorists working mainly outside the Hispanic area; others have made such telling contributions to particular strands of literature that their names are immediately evocative of specific currents or styles. Elena Poniatowska is associated with testimonial writing; Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel are known for the magical realism of their texts; others, such as Juana de Ibarbourou and Laura Restrepo remain relatively unknown despite their contributions to erotic poetry and to postcolonial prose fiction respectively. The distinctiveness of this volume lies in its attention to writers from widely differing historical and social contexts and to the diverse theoretical approaches adopted by the authors. Brígida M. Pastor teaches Latin American literature and film at the University of Glasgow . Her publications include 'Fashioning Cuban Feminism and Beyond', 'El discurso de Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda: Identidad Femenina y Otredad'; and 'Discursos Caribenhos: Historia, Literatura e Cinema'. Lloyd Hughes Davies teaches Spanish American Literature at Swansea University. His publications include 'Isabel Allende, La casa de los espíritus' and 'Projections of Peronism in Argentine Autobiography, Biography and Fiction'.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-830-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction: The Feminine Voice in Latin American Literature
    (pp. 1-22)

    This Companion to Latin American Women Writers introduces the reader to an overview of the socio-historical context that has shaped the voice of these women. The diverse range of writers covered in this volume offers an exposure of feminine literary discourse, which is of great relevance to understanding the ‘matriheritage of founding discourses,’¹ revealing the rich textual examples of a wide range of women writers in Latin America, from those well-established to the lesser known and forgotten. The female writer has been largely absent from the literary canon with the exception of a few isolated examples² (Díaz-Diocaretz, 1990: 104–5)....

  4. 1 Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648/51?–1695)
    (pp. 23-36)

    Juana Ramírez de Asbaje, the illegitimate daughter of an illiterate criolla,¹ was born on a small hacienda in central Mexico. Her rise to become the premier poet of the colonial Americas – all of them – is a compelling story. We know neither her exact birth date, nor much about her father, Pedro Manuel de Asbaje, a Basque captain who had three children with Isabel Ramírez, then disappeared when Juana, the second of three daughters, was about five or six. Isabel subsequently produced three more children with another Spaniard. Illegitimate children were common in colonial Mexican society, among both white and criolla...

  5. 2 Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1814–1873)
    (pp. 37-54)

    The Cuban writer Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y Arteaga (1814–1873) pioneered not only Latin American but also Spanish women’s writing in the mid-nineteenth century. She is considered ‘la figura más destacada de todo el romanticismo en Hispanoamérica [que] no ha tenido rival en la literatura del nuevo continente’ (Díez-Echarri and Roca Franquesa, 1966: 893) [the most outstanding figure to emerge from Spanish American Romanticism, who has had no equal in the literature of the New Continent]. She was born and educated into Cuba’s aristocracy in Puerto Príncipe (now Camagüey). In 1836, Avellaneda moved with her family to La Coruña,...

  6. 3 Gabriela Mistral (1889–1957)
    (pp. 55-68)

    Long before she died, Gabriela Mistral – Nobel Prize-winning poet, teacher, widely travelled diplomat and prolific prose writer – had become a revered icon in Chile. Yet, the hundreds of thousands of her compatriots who flocked to pay their last respects to la divina Gabriela [the divine Gabriela] (Figueroa, 1933) in January 1957, knew very little of her work apart from the so-called ‘sentimental’ poems of Desolación [Desolation] and the lullabies that everyone had learnt at school. During the 1960s several attempts were made to promote a more detailed study of Mistral’s oeuvre,¹ but it was not until the late 1970s, when...

  7. 4 Alfonsina Storni (1892–1938)
    (pp. 69-82)

    This description of a peaceful, well turned-out corpse was taken from an early newspaper report of Alfonsina Storni’s suicide by drowning, in 1938. Cited in Etchenique’s loving tribute, it is an image that has played a significant role in subsequent mythologizing of Storni as a poète maudit(e).¹ It is tempting to hope that Storni would have welcomed this image of her as ‘perfectly dressed and calm’, as she was a shrewd commentator on fashion.² And yet it is an image that also has more abject connotations, linking Storni’s image to that of suicidal women writers like Woolf or Plath and...

  8. 5 Silvina Ocampo (1903–1993)
    (pp. 83-94)

    Until Emecé began re-publishing her works in the late 1990s, the Argentinian writer Silvina Ocampo was a relatively well kept secret. Her eldest sister Victoria had a more prominent cultural profile through her influential literary journal and publishing house, Sur (see King, 1986). The inevitable comparison between them was begun by Victoria herself, who published Silvina’s first book, Viaje olvidado [Forgotten Journey] (1937), then proceeded to pen a rather censorious review of it (Victoria Ocampo, 1937).¹ Silvina Ocampo naturally shrank from the limelight – Ulla (1999) dubs her ‘una escritora oculta’ [a hidden writer] – and from the literary celebrity which gradually...

  9. 6 Clarice Lispector (1920–1977)
    (pp. 95-104)

    Clarice Lispector (1920–1977), Brazil’s most famous novelist, came to prominence when the Boom novel was at the zenith of its popularity in Latin America. But the Boom novel was part of a renaissance of the novel in Spanish-speaking countries, and it was dominated by four male novelists, Julio Cortázar (1914–1984), Carlos Fuentes (1928–2012), Mario Vargas Llosa (b. 1936), and Gabriel García Márquez (b. 1927). If there is one aspect of Lispector’s work which bears comparison with the Boom novelists it is the sense of the novelist who now speaks to the world. For in Latin America the...

  10. 7 Rosario Castellanos (1925–1974)
    (pp. 105-122)

    The ominous nature of Rosario Castellanos’s poem ‘Advertencia al que llega’ [‘Warning to the Person Arriving’] constitutes a forceful introduction to her work as a whole with its references to pain, scarring and the desire for silence and death. Castellanos is quite rightly considered a pioneering force in Mexican literature of the twentieth century. Indeed, Elena Poniatowska describes her as, ‘la precursora intelectual de la liberación de las mujeres mexicanas’ [the intellectual precursor of Mexican women’s liberation] (1985: 22). Her output was prolific and included novels, short stories, many collections of poetry, drama and essays. She worked in various capacities...

  11. 8 Elena Poniatowska (1933– )
    (pp. 123-136)

    Although Poniatowska is not the most internationally recognised of Mexican women writers – that role has been accorded to Laura Esquivel after her phenomenal success with Como agua para chocolate [Like Water for Chocolate] – she is, perhaps, the most widely respected for her tireless journalistic work and for her championing of the Mexican people. Lauded principally for the collecting and editing of testimony, most of her writing deals with extraordinary people or events and reveals her interest in Mexican society and her empathy with those marginalised by poverty, class or disability. In both her fictional and her journalistic work she writes...

  12. 9 Alejandra Pizarnik (1936–1972)
    (pp. 137-148)

    No poet has captured with such intensity the paradox that words are all we have and yet, because of the fraught nature of language, the process of communication is problematic. In the lines cited above, Alejandra Pizarnik attests to this dilemma directly, and in the process foregrounds one of the central tensions which run through her entire work: the problem of expression itself, and the extent to which language is an effective conduit to express the complexity of human thoughts and emotions. And yet her work reverberates with a pathos and intensity of feeling whereby any logic of the text...

  13. 10 Luisa Valenzuela (1938– )
    (pp. 149-158)

    Western society has long accepted the notion that in the beginning was the word: when God said let there be light, there was light, that is, saying it makes it so. Argentine Luisa Valenzuela has challenged this premise from the beginning of her literary career and inspired her readers to rethink the stories and versions of reality that have been promulgated by the powers that be on all levels of society. As her fiction repeatedly demonstrates, human beings continually try to repeat that initial divine gesture and perform their own acts of prestidigitation as they attempt to (re-)create the world...

  14. 11 Isabel Allende (1942– )
    (pp. 159-168)

    Isabel Allende (1942– ) is, of course, a flesh-and-blood writer, but she is also very much a phenomenon. There are two moments and two books which mark her launch and re-launch as a literary sensation. The first is 1982 and the publication of her first novel La casa de los espíritus [The House of the Spirits]. The novel was an instant and huge success. Though initially circulated clandestinely in Allende’s native Chile (then under military rule), it became a massive international bestseller, was translated into around thirty languages and later made into a film with a star-studded cast (1994). Allende...

  15. 12 Rosario Ferré (1938– )
    (pp. 169-182)

    The Puerto Rican Rosario Ferré (b. 1938) has been a prolific writer since the 1970s, producing works in both Spanish and English. Ferré has written children’s stories, such as El medio pollito (1976) [The Half Chick], Los cuentos de Juan Bobo (1980) [The Stories of Juan Bobo], and La mona que le pisaron la cola (1981) [The Monkey Who Had Her Tail Stepped On]. Her short stories for adults, included in Papeles de Pandora (1976) [The Youngest Doll] and Maldito amor (1986) [Sweet Diamond Dust], are famous for their treatment of women as doubled by dolls, statues, monsters, offspring, and...

  16. 13 Laura Esquivel (1950– )
    (pp. 183-196)

    Laura Esquivel, one of the most prominent of contemporary Mexican women writers, was born in Mexico City in 1950. Although her first novel was published in 1989, Esquivel had worked previously as a teacher, writing plays for children, and then writing television and film scripts. It was, however, her first full-length novel which was to bring her wide-spread fame and success: Como agua para chocolate: novela de entregas mensuales, con recetas, amores y remedios caseros [Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Instalments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies]. Since this, her first and most successful novel, Esquivel has...

  17. 14 Laura Restrepo (1950– )
    (pp. 197-212)

    Laura Restrepo (Colombia, 1950– ), the author of half a dozen major novels, is fast emerging as one of the leading female writers of Spanish America. The pervasive socio-historical preoccupations of her work might seem to merge almost seamlessly within a body of Spanish American novelistic writing traditionally judged by its social effectiveness. But such a first impression is misleading – at least in part: if there is one common thread running through her diverse literary output it is her consistent blurring of boundaries between traditionally distinct identities, categories and concepts: truth and fiction, historical fact and imaginative re-creation; the sacred...

  18. Conclusion
    (pp. 213-216)

    Writing by women is often seen as a form of resistance, even as a revolutionary act, as Debra A. Castillo points out (1992: 20). Even so, it is not always taken seriously (Marting, 2003: 200), often regarded, sometimes by women themselves, as limited: Castillo (1992: xix) points to the Mexican critic Sara Sefchovich, who – ironically – herself claims to be a militant feminist (Franco, 1996: 227). Nonetheless, the best Latin American writing is ‘antihegemonic and challenges a monumentalizing or totalizing view of literature’ (Castillo, 1992: xxii). Many women writers are constructing ‘una voz propia’ (1992: 100) [a voice of their own]:...

    (pp. 217-240)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 241-254)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)