Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation




English Language and Literature

First Advisor

Maria Cristina C. Mabrey


The purpose of this project is to build on two major theoretical fields, feminism and postdictatorial memory, in the context of Latin American women’s writing. The development of Latin American feminism has run concurrently with the broader feminist movements of the 20th century, but has been shaped by the particularities and diversity of the region. Specific concerns relating to postcoloniality, religion, and nation have caused theorists like Debra A. Castillo to discuss Latin American feminism on its own, focusing on the inherent privileging of praxis over theory and the necessary pastiche of local and international theories. The development of Latin American feminism must also be considered within the context of the authoritarian governments that ruled during the mid- 20th century. The 1970s and 80s saw the rise of military dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. The widespread use of censorship and state-sponsored terrorism through detention and disappearances created an atmosphere of anxiety and trauma from which the national communities have yet to entirely heal. Idelber Avelar’s theoretical considerations of postdictatorial memory and the narrative of transition to democracy highlight the effects of social and personal trauma as depicted in literature. He develops his theory on mourning literature to describe a set of texts that neither engage in the official discourse of the dictatorship nor produce a counter-narrative that only exists relationally. Instead, Avelar’s mourning literature rips apart the binary and recognizes the multiplicity of truths that the social trauma of dictatorship constructs. Novels by Luisa Valenzuela of Argentina, Clarice Lispector of Brazil, and Diamela Eltit of Chile take part in this project of mourning with an added caveat that recognizes the heteronormativity inherent in the discourses not only of the dictatorships, but also of their broader societies. Drawing from Judith Butler’s concepts of grievability and gender performativity, this study analyzes novels by Latin American women writers that identify the heteronormative strictures of their milieux and blur the boundaries of sex and gender. Through a range of metafictional strategies, the writers studied here make clear to their readers that productive mourning of dictatorship cannot exist without a deeper critique and deconstruction of the heteronormative discourse on which both the dictatorships and the opposition are based.