- Hechura y confección. Escritura y subjetividad en narraciones de mujeres latinoamericanas
In this important collection of essays, María Inés Lagos draws on more than two decades of her trailblazing work on Latin American feminist criticism to offer a broad view of the makings and unmakings of female subjectivity, the doings of gendered agents and the creation or recapitulation of strategies for negotiating or resisting familial, sociopolitical or cultural structures in works by over a dozen Latin American women writers. Although several of the essays that appear in this volume appeared in earlier versions (or in English), their juxtaposition brings new light to Lagos’s original readings of the narratives studied, allowing us to appreciate both the development of feminist criticism in the area of Latin American fiction and the author’s own intellectual and theoretical trajectory in the process.
My first reaction to the volume was one of surprise at the rather quaint title (“Hechura y confección”) for a collection of essays on women authors whose work was or is considered to be cutting-edge, revolutionary, subversive, or at least contestatory. But I have a penchant for etymologies and word usage, and a quick review of the composition and history of the two terms quickly convinced me Lagos’s inspired title encapsulated perfectly the broad spectrum of critical essays included in the volume. Influenced by feminist anthropologist Sherry Otner’s distinction between doing and making (or constructing) in connection with subjectivity and agency, Lagos’s book pursues questions of identity, subject position and agency and considers these within the social, political and cultural structures which the literary subjects she writes about inhabit. Separately, “hechura” alludes to various forms of doing, of behaviors and deeds, while “confección” has a more complicated history, having referred to, at different points in the history of the term, the preparation of pharmaceutical pastes or syrups thickened with sugar or honey, the preparation of documents or treaties, the expert preparation of sweets and complicated articles of clothing (the last two meanings still are current usage in Spanish). Combined, the phrase “hechura y confección” refers to the designs and constructions of experienced seamstresses and tailors. In the context of this volume, the phrase links textiles and textures to texts, intertexts and subtexts; also, to cuts, seams and designs. [End Page 151] Throughout the volume, we witness the undoings and deconstructions of a critic who examines both the complicated social, political and cultural forces that the writers she studies enlist or resist in constructing their gendered subjects. The essays in the volume are also highly conscious of the elaborate woven textual strategies that sustain such creations.
Lagos prefaces her studies of women’s narratives written between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s with a “preliminary portrait” (“Retrato preliminar”) of the seventeenth-century Chilean nun Ursula Suárez. Arguing that Sister Ursula’s autobiography shows the nun already “doing” gendered negotiations in her dealings with the normative male power structures, Lagos claims that Latin American women writers can look to homespun versions of gendered subjects in their midst, implying, of course, that those women writing in the 1970s could look to their own hemispheric histories for narrative models of gendering identity and agency rather than having to rely strictly on foreign examples. In her next chapter, “Sujetos femeninos narrados por ‘Otro,’” Lagos analyzes texts by Clarice Lispector, Julieta Campos, Rosario Ferré and Ana María del Río, all written largely in the 1970s and 1980s. The essays in this section comment on the difficulties and limitations of women whose identity is being defined from the perspective of the other. In these essays Lagos carefully notes the tensions and contestations that develop as the subjects narrated seek to rebel or redefine themselves against the impositions and suppositions established by the other’s line of vision.
“Sujetos femeninos en sociedades en proceso de cambio” juxtaposes an additional reading of Ferré to essays on Rosario Castellanos and Isabel Allende in order to examine the particularly strategic negotiations...