Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Literatures & Languages


Susana Reisz

Committee Members

Oscar Montero

Electa Arenal

Subject Categories

Latin American Languages and Societies


This study traces textual contradictions in the narrative of some contemporary female writers of Latin America: Isabel Allende's La casa de los espiritus (1982), Laura Esquivel's Como agua para chocolate (1989), Cristina Peri Rossi's "Desastres intimos" and "Entrevista con el Angel" (1997), Zoe Valdes' Te di la vida entera (1996), Eva Sefchovich's Demasiado amor (1990), Carmen Olle's Las dos caras del deseo (1994), and Sylvia Molloy's En breve carcel (1981).

I define "contradiction" as the coexistence of conflicting discourses within one narrative voice, i.e. discourses of love and violence, of romance and rape, of female strength and submission. I contend that the texts included in my analysis show different degrees of awareness of these tensions, as well as different textual strategies to deal with them.

I have employed Bakhtin's theory of discourse because it conceptualizes narrative as an arena for the interaction of diverse perceptions of the self and the world. His approach has allowed me to observe whether there is, in the narratives chosen, a dialogue between the forces of internalized tradition and the wish for change. Conversely, it has helped me examine a denial of such internalized tradition and a celebration of some sort of rapid, liberating sense of freedom that is deeply marked by a problematic complicity with ideological systems of control of female sexual behavior.

The two Latin American best-selling novels written by women in the past twenty years—La casa de los espiritus and Como agua para chocolate—achieve this latter type of compromise. They avoid an active dialogue of conflicting discourses and cover, with the fantastic and apparently overpowering qualities of their protagonists, troubling tones of violence that derive from traditional romantic relations between the sexes.

The rest of the narratives examined in my work deal with contradiction in a different way. Peri Rossi, Sefchovich and Valdes make use of the subtleties of humor to reveal the absurd tragedy of females whose lives are strained by competing social demands. Olle and Molloy employ narrative techniques of estrangement—a schism of the self—to be able to establish a dialogue with discourses of violence and homoerotic desire which confront pervasive and ingrained ideas of idealized, romantic and heterosexual love.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.