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Diamela Eltit

Diamela Eltit: Reading the Mother

Series: Monografías A
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 180
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  • Book Info
    Diamela Eltit
    Book Description:

    The Chilean author, Diamela Eltit, whose work spans the periods of the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990) and the Transition to Democracy (1990-), is one of the most innovative and challenging writers in contemporary Latin America. This book focuses on the representation of motherhood in Eltit's first six novels and, through a chronological series of close readings, argues that the maternal body and mother-child relations are crucial for an understanding of the critical challenge posed by Eltit's narrative oeuvre, too frequently dismissed as 'hermetic'. An analysis of the novels' structure and language reveals how Eltit seeks to reconfigure the foundations of symbolic structures and so incorporate the mother as a subject. Although the study draws on a feminist psychoanalytic framework to explore Eltit's continuous disarticulation of key concepts that emanate from the West, specifically in relation to the formation of gender and sexuality, the work of the major Chilean cultural theorist, Nelly Richard, is also used to situate Eltit's work within the political and cultural context of Chile. MARY GREEN lectures in Hispanic Studies at the University of Wales, Swansea.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-533-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-24)

    This book examines the representation of motherhood in the narrative fiction of the contemporary Chilean author Diamela Eltit (1949—). Through a close reading of Eltit’s first six novels, my aim is to show that the terrain of the maternal body and mother—child relations are crucial to an understanding of her narrativeoeuvre, which passionately scrutinizes and rearticulates symbolic representations of motherhood, sexuality and gender. All of the relationships portrayed in Eltit’s novels stem from their intersection with the mother, or the maternal figure, but although motherhood is fundamental to Eltit’s narrative, it remains a largely unexplored area of...

  5. 1 Language, Vision and Feminine Subjectivity in Lumpérica
    (pp. 25-46)

    Lumpéricawas originally published in 1983 by the small Chilean publishing house Ornitorrinco. The period during which Eltit wroteLumpérica(1976—83) marked the time of her involvement with CADA (Colectivo de Acciones de Arte), and it is this novel which is most influenced by Eltit’s artistic and political activism, both in CADA and through her concurrent elaboration of individual video-performances. Indeed, Richard has describedLumpéricaas more of a performance than a novel because of its appropriation of other, non-literary techniques, a point also made by Robert Neustadt.²

    In an interview given in 1985, Eltit states that she does...

  6. 2 Por la patria: Mother, Family and Nation
    (pp. 47-72)

    Eltit was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Literature in 1985 to complete her second novel,Por la patria(1986), the first female author in Chile to have been accorded this prestigious prize.² Eltit concedes thatPor la patriais her most marginal novel if judged in terms of its subdued critical reception and sparse critical readings to date.³ However, it is this novel, she states, which is the most meaningful to her, as an author: ‘si tuviera que decir que soy escritora es porque escribí ese libro’.⁴

    While employing staple narrative strategies associated with the boom writers, such as a...

  7. 3 Motherhood and Gender in El cuarto mundo
    (pp. 73-92)

    El cuarto mundois, essentially, a fictional representation of the construction of gender.¹ The backdrop to the action of the novel is the increasingly enclosed space of, initially, the uterine chamber and then the family home, and the narrative is embedded in dysfunctional familial affiliations that become progressively intertwined with the public context. The narrative voices are those of fraternal twins, one male and one female, who narrate the first and second sections of the novel respectively, although there is a shift to an omniscient third-person narrator in the final two pages.² The narrative of the ‘mellizo’ consists mainly of...

  8. 4 Vaca sagrada: Violence, Abjection and the Maternal
    (pp. 93-112)

    Vaca Sagrada(1991) was the first novel published by Eltit during the Transition and it occupies an anomalous position within the trajectory of her narrative.¹ It was the first of her novels to be published outside Chile (in Buenos Aires) and was widely marketed by the publishing house Planeta as part of the boom of thenueva narrativa, a term generally used to describe the literary work of young Chilean authors who emerged at the beginning of the 1990s. The provenance and composition of thenueva narrativahave been widely debated in recent years, and many writers and critics in...

  9. 5 Writing the Mother in Los vigilantes
    (pp. 113-132)

    Los vigilantes, Eltit’s fifth novel, was awarded the José Nuez Martín prize for the best novel published in Chile in 1994—95 and was written during Eltit’s period of residence as the Chilean Cultural Attaché in Mexico City.¹ In her extensive interviews with Leonidas Morales, Eltit states that Samuel Beckett’sMolloyand William Faulkner’sThe Sound and the Furywere two important references in her writing of the novel, as were certain elements of the work of Brecht and Kafka.² However, she also states that her main aim in writing this novel was to explore the idea of power, beginning...

  10. 6 The Myth of Motherhood in Los trabajadores de la muerte
    (pp. 133-152)

    Eltit’s sixth novel,Los trabajadores de la muerte(1998), exposes the furious and vengeful facet of maternity that emerges from a narrative embedded in familial abandonment and betrayal.¹ Eltit has stated that she drew on a murder that occurred in Chile in the 1980s and was reported in the gossipy ‘crónica roja’ (tabloid press) to structure the plot of the novel.² The newspaper reports that generated Eltit’s interest detailed the murder of a woman by her half-brother in the southern city of Concepción, after her attempts to bring their sexual relationship to an end. The main body of the novel,...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 153-156)

    To read the novels of Diamela Eltit is to enter a narrative world of crisis in which the most basic precepts and assumptions that we hold of language, culture and society verge on collapse. Her writing emerges from marginal areas where general and universal categories and meanings founder, which prevents the utterance of any totalizing judgements and truths about her work or the marginal world it portrays. While Eltit’s novels demand interpretation, these same novels challenge and frequently subvert the power of established interpretative frameworks.

    By means of a predominately psychoanalytic approach, my reading of Eltit’s novels has focused on...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 157-168)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 169-171)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 172-172)