19th century plantation counter-discourses in Juan Francisco Manzano, Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés (Plácido), and Eleuterio Derkes
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My purpose in writing this dissertation is to re-evaluate the works of three influential Spanish-Caribbean authors who seem to be remembered more as exceptional historical characters rather than for their literature itself. Although often considered to be important contributors to the Spanish-Caribbean literary canon, these writers have also suffered a measure of marginalization as scholars have relegated them to the status of discursive subjects rather than evaluate them as authorial agents. As a consequence, the majority of their works have not been fully recognized as important factors in nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty first century literary production. I show how in their writings – many of which have been misunderstood, under-evaluated, and/or forgotten altogether – these writers narrated their own precarious situations and lifted their voice in protest against slavery, racism and economic oppression at a time when the dominant discourses and heavy-handed controls of the Spanish colonial government strictly forbid them to do so. These authors are Juan Francisco Manzano, Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés (Plácido) and Eleuterio Derkes. Because these authors lived in Cuba (Manzano and Plácido) and Puerto Rico (Derkes) as colonial subjects underneath the oppressive structures of their respective plantation and hacienda economies based on sugar production and slave labor, they experienced difficult colonial conditions and as such are able to narrate this life through a unique perspective that other writers associated with the dominant discourses of the time could not. While these brands of hegemony were indeed forced upon them as writers and artists, it did not stop them from narrating and communicating their unique Spanish Caribbean perspective. I show how these authors, as marginalized figures of nineteenth century plantation society, engineered their own discourses around these hegemonic institutions – writing between the lines of hegemony and concurrent with it at the same time – in order to create an alternative image of nineteenth century Spanish Caribbean society that requires further critical consideration and perspective.
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