English Language and Literature ETDs

Author

Leigh Johnson

Publication Date

7-2-2011

Abstract

This dissertation posits that writers can symbolically represent domestic violence to critique unjust gender relations as well as iniquitous US policy toward Mexican Americans. I use the term domestic violence because it most closely describes the double voiced discourse women engage to critique communities that condone violence against women as well as a country that perpetrates violence against Mexican Americans within its borders. Put broadly, domestic violence refers to threats of sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse within the home. Furthermore, patriarchal control over womens agency, sexuality, and mobility in turn-of-the-century texts also indicates domestic violence through social and historical conditions. Violence is especially evident throughout this project as women's rights challenge patriarchal structures and civil rights challenge racist policies. Revealing the perilous gains of women and Mexican Americans, social backlash encourages explosions of domestic violence. For this reason, each chapter explores the historical and social contexts surrounding scenes of domestic violence. Mexican American women remain tenuously between the spaces of home and nation as they experience domestic violence from state and familial institutions. Because these women are not safe within their homes, they have to participate in a broader societal push to define, describe, and defend themselves against domestic violence. Their resistance comes with a price—women, especially women of color, who resist patriarchal violence may be seen as cultural traitors, exposing their men to criticism from dominant society. The first chapter shows how women's speech both uncovers and masks narratives of domestic violence through allegory using the testimonios taken for the Bancroft project on California history. The second chapter examines how the historical romance genre incorporates scenes of domestic violence against women's protected space in the home and nation. The third chapter reveals how representations of domestic violence within Mexico reflect colonial anxieties about conquest and domestic policy. American travel writers' encounters with domestic violence in Mexico reflect the anxieties surrounding American entitlement to Mexico and the bodies of the people living there. The fourth chapter observes limitations on women's ability to leave violent situations within the home or the nation. This chapter utilizes scenes by Mexican American men, as they write about (and blame women for) domestic violence. The fifth chapter celebrates women writers' activism through literary motherwork. Though these texts, with the exception of the last chapter, precede the Chicano Movement, they are politically engaged in a struggle to define and defend la raza through their intellectual agendas.'

Degree Name

English

Level of Degree

Doctoral

Department Name

English

First Advisor

Aleman, Jesse

First Committee Member (Chair)

Rebolledo, Tey Diana

Second Committee Member

Reyes, Barbara

Third Committee Member

Saldivar-Hull, Sonia

Project Sponsors

American Association of University Women

Language

English

Keywords

Mexican American women--Crimes against--History, Mexican American women--Abuse of--History, Mexican American women in literature, Family violence in literature, Mexican American women authors, Sex role--Political aspects--United States--History, Sex role--Political aspects--Mexico--History

Document Type

Dissertation

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