- Widening the Spectrum of Desire and Nation:Anacristina Rossi’s Fiction
Anacristina Rossi is one of Costa Rica’s most important writers. Often studies of her work, including my own, highlight gendered and ethnic alterity that counter Costa Rican nationalist narratives.1 In this analysis I take a second look at this alterity and its relationship to sexuality. In particular, I examine the main female voices and characters in three of Rossi’s major novels (Mariestela in Maria la noche ; Daniela in La loca de Gandoca ; and Leonor in Limón Blues ) in order to underscore subtle elements of queer sexuality that enrich and complicate the categories of sexuality and gender, as well as the critique of the nation-state.2 I intend to show that queer theory allows for a more accurate and nuanced picture of Rossi’s textual politics. It is only by applying queer theory that sexual diversity, particularly nonnormative femininities, becomes apparent in these texts.
Informed exclusively by feminist theory, I previously concluded that Rossi’s textual representation of female sexuality is an expression of rebellion against the oppression exerted on women and subalterns by the patriarchal nation-state’s controlling powers. For example, in my analysis of Limón Blues, I wrote: “… Limón Blues presents a female erotic discourse that responds to a repressed sexuality and, in a wider sense, to an erased female participation in national politics. … [This] rebellious erotic stance … underscores the fallacy of a nation-state discourse that ignores its female side.”3 But the repressive hypothesis, as [End Page 93] Foucault shows, is at best an insufficient analytical tool. It relies on identity politics, which although an important enough perspective as to not be cast aside, produces notable blind spots. I think my feminist reliance on identity politics blinded me to the subtle but relevant queer elements in Rossi’s narratives. As a result, my understanding of her literary treatment of sexuality was incomplete.
Anacristina Rossi, an award-winning feminist writer and environmental activist, is known for her incisive critique of Costa Rican politics and culture. Her prose highlights the close ties among sexism, racism, and environmental degradation, within the paradigms of neoliberalism and globalization. She has published four novels and a collection of short stories plus (as Root points out) numerous journalistic essays in major newspapers and magazines in Costa Rica and Argentina.4 Her novels have been translated into several languages and awarded various national and international literary prizes, most notably the 2004 Pablo Neruda medal, and the 2004 Casa de las Américas José María Argue-das prize. In 2007, she was named as member of the prestigious Costa Rican Language Academy, a post that she rejected a year later.
Like many other contemporary Latin American post-boom women writers,5 Rossi deals extensively in her texts with the theme of women’s sexuality, inscribing a gynocentric perspective that responds to the overwhelmingly male perspective of sex, and of female sex in particular, in Latin American literature. A quick look at the history of literary representations of female sexuality within this literature reveals how this topic has been manipulated for extraliterary purposes, starting with the publication of the canonical novels of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Written by male politicians who were anxious about the slow consolidation of their nation-states, these positivist narratives included heterosexual romances at the core of their plots, signaling a desire for order and progress against what they considered “wild” obstacles for nation-building, chief among them female sexuality and miscegenation.6 Viewed as undisciplined, ungoverned, and plain dangerous, taming these obstacles was the main item in these writers’ political and literary agendas. In order to exert control on female sexuality, their literary depictions emphasized women’s capacity to love over their capacity for sexual pleasure, and their supposed purity and frigidity over their erotic drive. Many decades later, when Latin American literature gained world notoriety with the “Boom” novels of the 1960s and 1970s, these depictions of female sexuality were still very much in place. As Payne and Fitz show, “Boom” authors valued ambiguity and experimentation in matters of novelistic structure and...