Ambivalent examples: The multiple Creole subjects of Spanish American nineteenth-century narrative

Ambivalent examples: The multiple Creole subjects of Spanish American nineteenth-century narrative

University of Pennsylvania
371 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3225427
ISBN: 9780542797194

Elisabeth L. Austin

This dissertation proposes a paradigm for 19th-century Spanish American Creole subjectivity that considers it to be a multiple, unstable construct rather than a coherent or constant entity. From this premise I explore exemplarity as a rhetorical mode that seeks to engage its reader’s subjectivity, and I posit that exemplary narrative becomes not only a site of subjectivity construction for the Creole reader but also a place for negotiating the problematics of the liberal order at the end of the 19th century. I maintain that reading exemplary narrative as an articulation of multiple Creole subjectivity allows us to study the contradictions and indeterminate pedagogy of many of these texts, and therefore to better analyze the ambivalence and problems they describe. My project investigates the work of four authors: Eugenio Cambaceres (Argentina), José Martí (Cuba), Clorinda Matto de Turner (Peru), and Juana Manuela Gorriti (Argentina). Cambaceres’s four novels—Potpourri: silbidos de un vago (1882), Música sentimental (1884), Sin rumbo (1885), and En la sangre (1887)—establish a social critique that culminates in the invention of a Creole national subject, depicted as a father figure for the future mestiza America, who is ultimately rendered non-viable within these narratives. Martí’s only novel, Lucía Jerez (1885), articulates a profound gender anxiety that threatens Martí’s ideal “natural man” and problematizes his dreams of solidarity and miscegenation as part of a future American identity. Matto’s Aves sin nido (1889) argues for liberal political intervention on behalf of Peruvian Indians while it simultaneously launches a critique of liberal ideology as an insufficient instrument of such change. Finally, I read Gorriti’s cookbook, Cocina ecléctica (1890), as a text that exemplifies multiple Creole subjectivity and negotiates authority and gender within irreducibly plural models of feminine subjectivity. These narratives profess pedagogical pretensions that are questioned and at times undermined within the texts themselves, and my dissertation argues that such contradictions illustrate rather than resolve the crises of Creole ideology and subjectivity brought about by the failure of Spanish American liberalism at the end of the 19th century.


  • Introduction: The Creole as Problematic Subject(ivity)
  • 1. (De)Constructing Creole America: Fractured Nineteenth-Century Power and Politics
  • 2. Creole Fictions: Hybridity and Indeterminacy in Nineteenth-Century Spanish American Literature
  • 3. The Ethics of Criollismo: National Subjectivity in Eugenio Cambaceres
  • 4. Monstrous Progeny: Gender Trouble and Fragile Virility in Jose Marti’s Lucía Jerez
  • 5. Bastardized Faith and Unanswered Prayers: Impotent Readership in Clorinda Matto de Turner’s Aves sin nido
  • Conclusion: Creole Subjectivities Inside Out: Writing Culture and Authority in Juana Manuela Gorriti’s Cocina ecléctica
  • Works Cited

Purchase the dissertation here.

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