Cartografia del deseo: Representaciones de homosexualidad masculina en la literatura hispanoamericana (1880--2000)

Date of Completion

January 2002


Literature, Modern|Literature, Latin American




A Cartography of Desire: Homoerotic Representations in Spanish American Literature (1880–2000) proposes a framework for analyzing the portrayals of gay men in Spanish American literature. This study discusses essay, narrative, theatre, and poetry by writers from several countries. I argue that between 1880 and 2000 at least four different rhetorical constructions were created to depict homoeroticism. Each paradigm was the result of specific social, political, and intellectual conditions. The first model emerged circa 1880 when the medical discourse on homosexuality as pathology was introduced in the region. Stylistically, it is characterized by employing innuendo and reticence to depict the gay subject, which is foreign or urban and upper-middle class. Between 1910 and 1930 a new characterization was created. This is explicit and deeply homophobic: The character, urban and upper-middle class, is unable to lead a balanced life and ends up committing suicide. After 1950 another type of image is introduced. Unequivocal as the previous one, it is more stereotypical: Gays are both effeminate and crossdressers. Another trait emerges: Characters tend to be provincial, and either from the lower classes or from minority groups. Death recurs as a theme: Instead of a suicide, the character dies in incidences involving a gay bashing. While there are examples of the first model in most genres, instances of the second and third ones are only found in narrative and theatre. For a century, gay poets avoided the heterosexist discourse found in the second and third models. This model of study, therefore, reveals a unique lyrical representational dynamic in gay poetry. Finally, I contend that it was not until 1970, when the fourth paradigm emerged, in which explicitly affirmative gay images began appearing both in significant number and in all genres. This last construction depicts gayness as a natural orientation and characters appear struggling to live in homophobic societies. I link this literary production to new ideas that started to circulate in the late 1960s, as well as the existence of gay subcultures in the largest Spanish American cities. ^