Rewriting women's lives: A literary study of dictatorships

Date of Completion

January 2006


Literature, Comparative|Literature, Latin American|Literature, Romance|Women's Studies




This study investigates the narrative strategies utilized by women authors of six literary works to portray women's circumstances under the dictatorships in Chile, Portugal and Spain. First and foremost, the study examines the relations of time and space, defined by Bakhtin as "chronotope:" an important literary narrative device that helps determine meaning in literary works. It also analyzes how the authors use the opposition self/other in order to re-create their characters' identity; the presence of "the other" is an intrinsic component for the creation of "the self." The characters of these works resort to their memory to discover their past and, in the act of doing so, establish a dialogue with history. This results in the re-making of their present and the challenging of the historical discourse of the dictatorships. ^ This analysis of women's writings reveals the common use of alternative narrative forms and narrative devices such as time, space, form, and language, which the authors deem to better portray women's experiences. These literary works challenge conventional narrative genres by presenting fragmented narratives and by displaying dialogic/polyphonic narratives, which grant a variety of discourses. The authors employ language strategies that depict the characters' experiences in a more accurate and comprehensive way. The characters' experiences reflect women's true experiences under the dictatorships. Moreover, the authors' presentations of different narrative forms and literary devices aim at creating alternative models for women's lives. ^ In short, the dissertation analyzes six literary works written by eight women writers who present alternative narrative discourses vis á vis the dictatorial discourses in order to re-create the characters' identity and to challenge the one-sided vision of the dictatorial discourse. The works studied are: from Chile, Isidora Aguirre's drama Retablo de Yumbel (1987) and Marcela Serrano's novel Para que no me olvides (1993); from Portugal, a fragmented postmodernist narrative Novas Cartas Portuguesas (1972) by Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta, and Maria Velho da Costa and Lídia Jorge's novel O Dia dos Prodígios (1980); and from Spain, Carmen Martín Gaite's novel El cuarto de atrás (1978) and Josefina R. Aldecoa's novel La fuerza del destino (1997). ^