From melodrama to postmodernism in three generations of Mexican women playwrights

Date of Completion

January 2009


Literature, Latin American|Women's Studies




This dissertation focuses on the ideological continuity running through feminist dramaturgical texts produced from the 1920s until the beginning of the 21st century, divided in three generations: 1924, 1954 and 1984 following Juan Arrom's thirty-year scheme. My analysis of each playwright draws on feminist theories such as those presented by Judith Butler, Rosario Ferré, and Aralia López González, as well as theater studies of Richard Hornby, Kirsten Nigro, Guillermo Schmidhuber, and Olga Martha Peña Doria, among others. The general aim is to prove that despite changes in the genre/theatrical strategies adopted by the playwrights, these plays confront the mechanisms of cruelty and oppression in a patriarchal society by reflecting them descriptively and/or prescribing methods of resistance. ^ The body of my dissertation consists of an introduction and five chapters. Chapter I deals with playwrights active during the 1920s through 1940s, and introduces the main lines of analysis I follow with each play. Chapter II explores the work of Luisa Josefina Hernández and Elena Garro, two writers whose work in the 1950s and 1960s revolutionized Mexican feminist dramaturgy, yet who have been considered to belong to distinct dramaturgical realms. Chapter III discusses the evolution in both Mexican society and in dramaturgical strategies through an intertextual analysis of Los huéspedes reales (1957), El eterno femenino (1976) and Entre Villa y una mujer desnuda (1993). Chapter IV deals with four texts by Estela Leñero and Sabina Berman that in the 1980s and 1990s display women's struggle for space in a patriarchal society. Chapter V deals with three plays written in the first decade of the 21st century which rewrite myths (Greek, biblical, and indigenous), thus foregrounding a residual patriarchal mindset still present in contemporary Mexican society. In general, connecting these generations takes us dramaturgically from subgenres such as melodrama through techniques today labeled postmodern, yet the “transitional perspective” that I adopt as one of the main theoretical frames, locates these texts within an ongoing feminist search for a level of equality that has not yet been thoroughly consolidated. ^