- Latin American Women’s Writing: Feminist Readings in Theory and Crisis, and: Framing Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women
As the editors of this recent Oxford Hispanic Studies series, Anny Brooksbank Jones and Catherine Davies offer the reader a collection of essays which are “very specific [feminist] readings” of texts written by Latin American women; through them they attempt to “foreground the unsettling and powerfully productive potential of the crisis in and around theory.” Jones and Davies first point out the existing tension in the premise that theory is both a necessity and a contested space within contemporary academic discourse; they go further to acknowledge theory’s limitations when applied cross-culturally and hemispherically to the literary production of Latin American women. However, the contributors to Latin American Women’s Writing, in their respective analyses, do not attempt to deal with the strains between theory and practice in relation to Latin American feminisms. Rather, the essays [End Page 419] presented in this compilation address “different feminist inflections of theory and crisis.”
That is to say, drawing on the work of a number of theoreticians whose writings might be or might not be considered part of the corpus of feminist theory, the majority of the scholars that contribute to this collection are more concerned with providing (re)readings of a number of canonical and noncanonical texts written by Latin American women. By including critical readings of the literary production of writers such as Norah Lange, Nellie Campobello, and María Luisa Bombal in conjunction with those of more contemporary feminist writers like Isabel Allende, Diamela Eltit, and Cristina Peri Rossi, one can asses the predicament that is created in the attempt to map the continuities and ruptures existing in what is considered, perhaps erroneously, the Latin American feminist literary tradition. The traditional literary genres are all represented; however, it is important to underline the fact that the contributing scholars make great strides to problematize the rigidities of these genres, since they are dealing with (“hybrid”) texts produced by women from the so-called Third World. Notwithstanding, the dominating presence of studies by women writers from the Southern Cone is perchance illustrative of yet another dilemma not addressed by the editors, the predisposition on the part of academicians to study the intersection of feminism and writing in the Latin American context mainly via what has been or is being produced in that region.
Among the most thought-provoking ideas that emerge from the close readings of particular texts and/or authors is Sharon Magnarelli’s keen analysis of the multiple displacements of the “I/eye” in Griselda Gambaro’s El despojamiento. Doris Meyer’s reading of Nellie Campobello’s Cartucho is also of interest since she treats this autobiography as part of the collective memory that serves to disrupt the hegemonic discourse of the Mexican Revolution. Susan Prenk’s contribution, via an analysis of Isabel Allende’s best-selling novels, is timely since it is an attempt to reread the Chilean author’s success as a revolutionary and “more democratic feminist act.” Lastly, mention has to be given to Luiza Lobo’s study of Sonia Coutinho’s narrative since hers is an effort to analyze the intersection of gender and the city in this Brazilian’s literary production; while she makes assumptions about the “Brazilian postmodern city,” her contribution is important due to the limited amount of studies which aim at discerning the female subject in the [End Page 420] urban landscape. Notwithstanding, in the first ten essays (or close readings) there seems to be a predilection for European and/or Europeanized theoretical frameworks. Butler’s notion of gender as performance, Irigaray’s concept of women’s language, and Kristeva’s writings on the abject best exemplify the sort of theories preferred and deployed by a number of the contributing scholars. In other words, there is an overriding partiality for poststructuralist theories and...