History as an (im)possibility: Memory, oblivion and power in Julia Alvarez, Cristina Garcia, Ana Teresa Torres, and Ana Lydia Vega

Date of Completion

January 2004


Literature, Modern|Literature, Latin American|Literature, Caribbean|Literature, American




In my dissertation I examine the fictional work of contemporary Caribbean women writers who revise conventional patriarchal paradigms in order to subvert them. I analyze how these writers undermine the foundations of monolithic notions of history and, at the same time, legitimize the representation of the past as a “decentralized” place, where diverse, non-mainstream, silenced collectivities can be assimilated. This marginal or minority vision also implies a questioning, in historical and cultural terms, about the way in which traditional phallocentric logic builds and imposes identities. Because traditionally history has dealt with heroic figures, these works return to the past to offer a vision of common, simple people in order to rescue them from oblivion and expose hidden versions of history. ^ The selected readings for this project, In the Times of Butterflies (1994), Dreaming in Cuban (1992), Malena de cinco mundos (1997), and Falsas crónicas del sur (1991) are written from a female perspective and experience. These works, therefore, challenge systems that support the standards of patriarchy. In addition, these writers reevaluate women and rewrite history from a perspective committed to the recuperation of unappreciated events, silenced subjects, and cultural levels lying beneath the dominant discourses. ^ I also broaden the usual territories of the Caribbean literature, expanding the perimeter farther away from the Antilles to embrace the littoral of several continental countries, as well as the works of those Caribbean women writers who reside in the United States, and whose texts reflect the problems and culture of this region, although from different perspectives. With this statement I promote a new vision, as well as a broader and inclusive meaning of the concept of community; in this case, the Caribbean. In other words I establish an intercultural dialogue with the purpose of widening the context of postmodern and postcolonial discourses, so that a transnational and transcontinental focus can be taken into account. ^