Latin-American Women Writers: Class, Race, and Gender

By Myriam Yvonne Jehenson | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 3 "Man's Love... 'Tis Woman's Whole Existence"

The early women writers discussed in this chapter, Venezuelan Teresa de la Parra, and the two Chileans, Marta Brunet and María Luisa Bombal, came from the upper middle class and were either well educated or traveled widely in Europe. Their texts describe the stultifying effects of their environment on women and the serious pitfalls of patterning themselves on the heroines of romance. Unlike the contemporary Costa Rican Carmen Naranjo, who hilariously parodies the romantic tradition in her short story Ondina ( 1983; see chapter four), these early writers instead emphasize the serious consequence of internalizing the romantic paradigm. Acutely aware of their society's oppressiveness, the protagonists of these earlier texts nevertheless remain passive and the authors remain ambivalent about the roles of their female characters. As a result, these works focus on coping mechanisms rather than on specific stratagies for change.


Teresa de la Parra, a contemporary of Victoria Ocampo, was no less forceful than Ocampo, but unlike her, transmuted criticism of her misogynistic society into fiction rather than autobiographical memoirs or testimonios. Parra Ifigenia, diario de una señorita que escribió porque se fastidiaba ( 1924; Ifigenia, the Diary of a Young Lady Who Wrote Because She was Bored) explores the perversions resulting from the gendered assignations of Venezuelan society. Her second novel, Las memorias de Mamá Blanca ( 1929; Mama Blanca's Memoirs), attempts an alternative.

Parra ( Ana Teresa Parra Sanojo) was born in 1889 and died of tuberculosis at the age of forty-seven. Her two best known works, Ifigenia and Mama Blanca's Memoirs, both center on


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