Performing Women and Modern Literary Culture in Latin America: Intervening Acts

Performing Women and Modern Literary Culture in Latin America: Intervening Acts

Performing Women and Modern Literary Culture in Latin America: Intervening Acts

Performing Women and Modern Literary Culture in Latin America: Intervening Acts

Synopsis

Women have always been the muses who inspire the creativity of men, but how do women become the creators of art themselves? This was the challenge faced by Latin American women who aspired to write in the 1920s and 1930s. Though women's roles were opening up during this time, women writers were not automatically welcomed by the Latin American literary avant-gardes, whose male members viewed women's participation intertulias(literary gatherings) and publications as uncommon and even forbidding. How did Latin American women writers, celebrated by male writers as the "New Eve" but distrusted as fellow creators, find their intellectual homes and fashion their artistic missions?

In this innovative book, Vicky Unruh explores how women writers of the vanguard period often gained access to literary life as public performers. Using a novel, interdisciplinary synthesis of performance theory, she shows how Latin American women's work in theatre, poetry declamation, song, dance, oration, witty display, and bold journalistic self-portraiture helped them craft their public personas as writers and shaped their singular forms of analytical thought, cultural critique, and literary style. Concentrating on eleven writers from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela, Unruh demonstrates that, as these women identified themselves as instigators of change rather than as passive muses, they unleashed penetrating critiques of projects for social and artistic modernization in Latin America.

Excerpt

In a memoir of Buenos Aires literary activity in the 1920s and 1930s, Alberto Pineta described his nervous, stammering debut in 1929 as a young lecturer for the prestigious cultural institution Amigos del Arte. Highlighting his recollection of the event is the intimidating impact on his demeanor every time he glanced up at the audience and encountered the imposing figure of Victoria Ocampo. Pineta also detailed a gathering of the vanguard Martín Fierro group and the arresting presence of Norah Lange. Her “grace, sensibility, and creative talent,” he noted, caused those present to accept “without protest the fatal fact of the woman writer.” Succumbing to this fate, Pineta reported having been flattered by the bestowal of her “personal poetry” when she accepted his invitation to dance (69, 89–90; my emphasis). Weaving through an account of the cultural activity of male writers, these anecdotes showcase the eclectic character of a literary world remapping its boundaries. a small but increasing number of women writers inhabited the Latin American literary landscape, but as these stories reveal, their presence was still sufficiently novel to provoke mixed reviews.

Pineta was not alone. in their equation of a woman's talent with her performative presence, his remarks typify their time. Contemporary accounts, literary memoirs, and reviews of women's writing in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Havana, Lima, São Paulo, and other Latin American cities highlight the growing but still anomalous participation of women writers, artists, and journalists in artistic circles of the 1920s and 1930s. This tumultuous era represents a key period in Latin America's social and cultural history. Literary groups aimed to revolutionize artistic expression, while nascent feminist movements sought civic reforms that paralleled women's increased presence in the workplace and public sphere. Although the rhetoric of cultural modernization and political feminism periodically intertwined in the public conversation, women received radically mixed messages about their changing roles. Popular middlebrow periodicals—Caras y caretas in Buenos Aires, Mexico City's El universal . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.