Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures


Malva E. Filer

Committee Members

Silvia Dapía

Juan Carlos Mercado

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Latin American Literature | Spanish Literature


marginalidad, subversión, criminalidad, Juan Filloy, la vanguardia, literatura latinoamericana, Argentina, anarquismo, ¡Estafen!, Op Oloop, Caterva


This dissertation focuses on the concepts of marginality and subversion in three novels written by Juan Filloy in the 1930s: ¡Estafen! (1932), Op Oloop (1934) and Caterva (1937). I study these novels in the context of the avant-garde movement of the 1920s and 1930s. I analyze the transformation that the concepts of marginality and subversion undergo when they are explored within the context of the avant-garde aesthetics, instead of that of social realism. I contrast Filloy’s approach to these themes with those of the novelists of the preceding decades. More importantly, I compare and contrast Filloy’s novels to Roberto Arlt’s El jueguete rabioso (1926) and Los siete locos (1929). I argue that Roberto Arlt’s novels influenced Juan Filloy’s novels, in regards to the subject matter and characters. Both Arlt and Filloy create characters that position themselves on the margins of society. However, Arlt’s characters come from the margins of society, and from there they attempt to subvert the status quo; they find themselves without the means to change their lives and resort to crime as their only possibility. They aspire to subvert the status quo in order to overcome their marginalization and become part of society. On the other hand, Filloy’s characters migrate to the margins of society by committing crimes, or by abandoning the social contract, in an attempt to subvert the social order. Filloy’s characters do not want to belong, they want to dismantle the status quo; their migration to the margin is an act of rebellion, against what they consider a corrupt and unjust society. These characters denounce capitalism, the judiciary system, and the social and moral conventions of the time through irony and parody. The investigation examines the use of irony and parody in ¡Estafen!, Op Oloop and Caterva; I argue that Filloy parodies the discourse and conduct of those in power through humor and irony. Filloy also parodies the political discourse of varied ideologies –communism, anarchism, and others-, and challenges some of the social conventions of the time.

In chapter one, I explore the social, political and literary context of Filloy’s novels of the 1930s. I study the impact of immigration, and its role in the creation of a proletarian class in Buenos Aires. I analyze the role of anarchism in the labor movement, the political struggle of previous decades, the rise of Radicalism and the beginning of military governments. I examine the novels written between 1880-1930 that explore the themes of marginality, criminality and subversion. The chapter ends with the novels of the 1920s that exhibit a departure from social realism, and show characteristics of the avant-garde aesthetics.

In Chapter two, I highlight the avant-garde characteristics of Filloy’s novels: use of the collage, metalanguages, and the exploration of dreams and the subconscious. In addition, I examine the concept of marginality, criminality and subversion in ¡Estafen!, Caterva and Op Oloop against Roberto Arlt’s El Juguete rabioso and Los siete locos. There are many points of contact between the two writers but there are many differences in regard to style. Arlt breaks with tradition and embraces the new aesthetics; Filloy on the other hand, is more conservative, choosing to selectively synthesize aspects of the new and the old aesthetics without fully breaking with tradition.

In chapter three I analyze the concepts of marginality, criminality and subversion in Filloy’s first novel: ¡Estafen! The protagonist, El Estafador, is a professional swindler who appropriates money by forging checks at the institution where he works. Filloy’s characters steal from those who have to help the dispossessed. El Estafador uses the money swindled, mostly for his own benefit, but also to help others and to contribute to causes that he considers just.

In Op Oloop, I examine the different discourses regarding prostitution and the white slave trade in Buenos Aires with the ones taking place in Argentina in the 1930s. Prostitution and the white slave trade, among others, are discussed during the banquet that Op Oloop offers to celebrate his thousandth coitus, which he will attain with a prostitute that night. During the symposium, one of the attendees, the Procurer, makes a defense of prostitution in which he exposes the hypocrisy of government officials and highlights the complicity of the authorities in the continuation of prostitution and the white slave trade. Additionally, I study Martel’s, Gálvez’s y Arlt’s portrayal of prostitution in their novels in comparison to that of Filloy.

In Chapter five, I focus how seven vagabonds use solidarity as a means of subverting the social order; they embark on a trip throughout Argentina to help others; they share the money they begged on the streets with those who are in need. Through the linyeras, we learn about the economic struggle of the poor in the Buenos Aires, in the aftermath of the collapse of the stock market in 1929, the establishment of Villas Miseria, and the political turmoil of the Década Infame.

In chapter six, I document the influence of Juan Filloy in Julio Cortázar’s work, with regards to language experimentation and possibility. Cortázar’s use of palindromes, plays on words, humor, irony and the agglomeration of different media (collage) –poems, refrains, verses, newspaper clips, songs, etc.- is very similar to that of Juan Filloy’s work; furthermore, I argue that Juan Filloy’s influence in Cortázar goes beyond the linguistic elements; it extends to characters and themes.

My investigation demonstrates that Juan Filloy’s novels of the 1930s were in the avant-garde of the Latin American narrative; some aspects of his novels -the oneiric, the stream of consciousness, etc.- place him as an early precursor of the New Narrative of the decades to come. In his novels, Filloy juxtaposes varied aesthetics, giving fluidity and texture to his writing. In regards to the subject matter, Filloy’s novels explore themes that deal with characters who position themselves on the margins of society from where they attempt to subvert the social order. He explores the concept of marginality and subversion through parody and irony; this effective use of humor in approaching such subjects sets him apart from all other novelists of his time.