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The Cambridge History of Latin American Women's Literature
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Book description

The Cambridge History of Latin American Women's Literature is an essential resource for anyone interested in the development of women's writing in Latin America. Ambitious in scope, it explores women's literature from ancient indigenous cultures to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Organized chronologically and written by a host of leading scholars, this History offers an array of approaches that contribute to current dialogues about translation, literary genres, oral and written cultures, and the complex relationship between literature and the political sphere. Covering subjects from cronistas in Colonial Latin America and nation-building to feminicide and literature of the indigenous elite, this History traces the development of a literary tradition while remaining grounded in contemporary scholarship. The Cambridge History of Latin American Women's Literature will not only engage readers in ongoing debates but also serve as a definitive reference for years to come.

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Page 1 of 2

  • 8 - Sense and Sensibility
    pp 133-148
  • View abstract
    The image of America as an Amazonian warrior woman was reproduced widely in Renaissance art and thereafter. As a central feature of a global archive and an iconic symbol, she conveys a range of Eurocentric anxieties intertwined with the dominant vision of indigenous extreme primitivism. Travel and captivity accounts with marvelous encounters became foundational discourses enticing early modern readers as they legitimated Iberian imperial expansion. The archive has been a patriarchal, geographical, and historical project dominated by political and economic interests biased toward regions with rich resources and populations. When considering the Iberian world and the global nature of colonialism, contingencies of time, place, and gender need to be considered in turn. A profoundly conflictive undertaking emerged in the creation of archival spaces, collections, and historical discourses on precolonial societies. In Mexico, historians, collectors, and bibliophiles depended greatly on surviving indigenous painted books in European collections and the missionary archive.
  • 9 - The Lyrical World in the Nineteenth Century
    pp 149-163
  • View abstract
    This chapter discusses examples of the textual production of women such as Dona Ines and Dona Maria Joaquina to showcase the relationship established between women of the Inca elite and the lettered culture of their time. It focuses on the production of legal documents in which they were actively involved. The chapter provides examples of native women in colonial Peru who presented themselves as legitimate members of Inca nobility and established a close relationship with the lettered culture of their time. The legal writings by women of the native elites of Latin America constitute examples of female subjectivity that manifest themselves as "arts of the contact zone" and "autoethnographic texts". Women's relation to the written word in colonial Spanish America started at a crossroads of rhetorical practices and textual devices that included the knowledge and transmission of oral traditions, visual narratives, tangible systems of record keeping, and the incorporation of the alphabetic script.
  • 10 - “That Damned Mob of Scribbling Women”
    pp 164-180
  • View abstract
    The written traces and cultural legacy left by colonial Spanish American women, especially interpreters, translators, nuns, and other religious women, provided the foundation for modern women's creations. Women played important roles in the production of culture during the early modern period throughout the Atlantic world and participated actively in the settlement of colonial societies. The most well-known woman from early modern period is Malinche, as she is known today, though she was called Marina by the Spaniards and Malintzin by the natives. A young native woman given to Hernan Cortes, leader of the Spanish expedition that conquered Mexico-Tenochtitlan, along with nineteen other women when he arrived with his entourage on the coast of Tabasco in 1519. Malinche became a feminine paradigm that survived throughout the colonial period, was revived in the nineteenth century as a literary character, became a scapegoat in the construction of the patria. She was then promoted as the epitome of Mexican consciousness in the twentieth century.
  • 11 - Literature by Women in the Spanish Antilles (1800–1950)
    pp 181-196
  • View abstract
    This chapter reveals how women represent, write, speak, remember, and affirm themselves and make requests in the complex sphere of the early Latin American colonial world. It provides an overview of women cronistas in addition to some biographical information and proposes using the figure of the female cronista to reconsider other discursive forms and other traditions in which the importance of orality and family (in terms of narration and social bonds) takes center stage. The chapter highlights the analysis of the legal-inquisitorial discourse. It focuses on the rhetoric of the legal-notarial discourse, which can be found in reports, ordinances, petitions, and probanzas. The chapter refers to letter writing, a crucial discursive form with regard to women's writing; this includes letters drafted for both the public sphere as well as the family sphere. It describes different subject positions, positions configured around diverse rhetorics: a rhetoric of silence/silencing, a rhetoric of request and claim, and a rhetoric of deviation.
  • Part III - Women Writers In-Between: Socialist, Modern, Developmentalists, and Liberal Democratic Ideals
    pp 197-480
  • View abstract
    The profuse iconography of Saint Jerome portrays him as a hermit and a man of letters, surrounded by his writing tools, papers, books, a skull, and a lion. Like the saint, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz constructed her hermitage as a cloistered nun, surrounded by books, quill pens, notebooks, documents, and treatises. When referring to other women similar to her, Sor Juana used the syntagm mulier docta, in which docta is understood as "sabio, erudito, estudioso, versado en ciencias o facultades". In her time, from amid the authorship, publication, patronage, and market corresponding to the order of books, the figure of the author became increasingly clearer. However, female authorship was only just beginning in Spain, not to mention in the Spanish colonies, where the case in question involved a woman who was not only a criolla, but also a nun. The first volume of Sor Juana's work Inundacion Castalida gained her a literary recognition in the metropolitan sphere.
  • 13 - Revolutionary Insurgencies, Paradigmatic Cases
    pp 228-242
  • View abstract
    Bourgeois women had been carving a space for themselves in the lettered world since the beginning of the nineteenth century, and by the late 1880s dozens of them were publishing books and journals. Working-class, lower middle-class, and immigrant women became literate and entered writing as part of their involvement in politics, trade unions, and education. This chapter discusses the writing of professional and working women between 1880 and 1930. It describes massive immigration, especially to countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile; the expansion of economic markets; the Mexican Revolution; and the ripple effects of World War I. While at the beginning of this period, most women who wrote belonged to the upper and middle classes, by the 1930s working-class women were involved in writing and publishing and had an important presence in the political press. Through travel writing, women rendered visible a world more and more complicated by relations of power and displacement.
  • 14 - The Women of the Avant-Gardes
    pp 243-260
  • View abstract
    This chapter focuses on major nineteenth-century women novelists and on the extent of their participation in the project of writing nationhood, despite their supposedly limited experience. It addresses questions such as how their novels interrogate the social arrangements and the aesthetic ideology of romantic fictions of identity and how they appropriated a masculine genre to delineate a tradition of resistance to the confluence of gender and genre. The chapter begins with three pioneer women writers, Cecilia Meireles, Rachel de Queiroz and Clarice Lispector, who produced pieces of imaginative prose as examples that combine the employment of gender-conscious authorship with a desire to represent woman as a political gesture. Finally, the chapter examines a selected body of writers and works that stand as a literary subculture that evolved under the emergence of a new Brazilian woman and the woman of letters particularly in the cultures of historiography and of literary criticism.
  • 15 - Dissident Cosmopolitanisms
    pp 261-277
  • View abstract
    The literature of the nineteenth-century Americas, considered both north and south, reveals a textured landscape of sensory material captured by the bodies of women. From the River Plate to Caribbean cities, this is revealed in the feminine cultural production not only in nation building narratives, but also in pamphlets, newspapers, and manuals registering female experience, situating women's sensory reach at the center of discussion. This chapter focuses on two mid-century romantics Argentina's, Juana Manuela Gorriti and Cuba's Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, who take experience to be central to their writing, positioning sense and sensibility as essential for citizen engagement. The insistence on sensual experience is more than a path to explore women's interiority. The chapter describes a claim that individual perceptions, and a trust in the sentient being, work as part of a larger project both to define the bases of governabilty and to expose its shortcomings and flaws.
  • 16 - Boom,Realismo Mágico– Boom andBoomito
    pp 278-295
  • View abstract
    Poetry was part of the common sound space, ranging from grand odes to heroes to popular songs about bandits or gauchos. The recitation of a poem, often composed solely for the occasion, accompanied most public events, and later in the century learning to recite poetry well was considered part of a good education. Poems from the ancient Spanish romancero were alive and well then in Spanish America, as Portuguese traditional poetry was in Brazil. Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda is the brightest star in the nineteenth century's female poetic firmament and, until the appearance of Ruben Dario in the 1880s, is perhaps only rivaled in the lyric by her earlier compatriot, Jose Maria de Heredia. With the expansion of public education, especially the normalista movement in Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and other countries, young people, both men and women, from modest beginnings entered the literary sphere.
  • 17 - Poetry-Fugue
    pp 296-310
  • View abstract
    In the prologue to Oasis de Arte, a travel chronicle by the Peruvian writer Zoila Aurora Caceres, Ruben Dario confesses having little fondness for women of letters. Dario's fixation on the general unattractiveness of the woman of letters reappears in a chronicle entitled 'Estas mujeres'. Dario's writings on female authorship reaffirm the doctrine of the spheres that female writers aimed to subvert through their intellectual activism. Although Latin American women writers of the nineteenth century wrote biographical profiles on colleagues of the other sex with the tacit goal of inserting themselves into the masculine networks that excluded them, the inverse was much less common. In Recuerdos de Espana, Ricardo Palma, a key figure of transatlantic culture, writes of the way in which the bonds of literary fraternity tighten when under threat of gendered diversification. Ricardo Palma's desire to neutralize an identity chaos in which men are feminized and women are masculinized reproduces Dario's distinction between domestic and abnormal female writers.
  • 18 - Mexican Migrations
    pp 311-325
  • View abstract
    This chapter briefly explores the rich tradition of literature written and published by women in the Spanish Antilles, Cuba and Puerto Rico, in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. It focuses on the ways these women engaged with their countries' distinctive island identities from a political and gendered perspective within the broader framework of the Hispanic literary and cultural tradition. The genre most cultivated by women was poetry, although the most celebrated woman writer of the period, the Cuban Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, was acclaimed as a dramatist as well as a poet, and wrote novels and an autobiography. The Spanish Constitution of 1837 guaranteed freedom of the press, and it was during the progressive General Espartero's regency that Avellaneda's novel, Sab, and her first book of poems, Poesias, were published. Sab remains exceptionally transgressive for its times.

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