The corporeality of trauma, memory, and resistance : writing the body in contemporary fiction from Chile and Argentina

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2014-05

Authors

Tille-Victorica, Nancy Jacqueline

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Abstract

This dissertation looks at the representation and impact of gendered violence in the novel Pasos bajo el agua (1986) and in the short stories in Ofrenda de propia piel (2004) by Argentine author and former political prisoner Alicia Kozameh (b. 1953), as well as in Jamás el fuego nunca (2007) and Impuesto a la carne (2010), two novels by Chilean writer Diamela Eltit (b. 1949). By examining the particular expressions of physical and psychological pain in the aforementioned texts, I demonstrate that Kozameh and Eltit write the female body to simultaneously represent a corporeality that, until recently, has rarely been expressed in literature, and reconstruct a body that has been traumatized by state-sponsored violence and by what could be considered economic violence. Both of them denounce violence, torture, disappearances, exile, and indifference to justice as painful events that not only damage the spirits of the victims, but that are also inscribed upon the physical body. I also show how each author addresses the overlapping of individual and collective traumatic memories and how these are felt in the body as well. Finally, I argue that writing the materiality of the lived body, from its vulnerability to its resilience, provides for Kozameh and Eltit valuable insight into the ways in which female bodies are able to resist and reassess the meaning imposed on them by legally-endorsed and non-official systems of oppression. Their work thus has direct viii social relevance that goes beyond feminism's countering of male dominance and women's rights. Yet, I also show that they manifest their feminist commitment by using the voice and body of female subjects to incorporate marginalized Chilean and Argentine bodies into the linguistic realm in order to provide a fuller understanding of female corporeality in Latin America.

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