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Heroes, victims or villains? Irish Presentations and Representations in Latin America and the Caribbean

Morelia, Mexico, 15-18 July 2009

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Ángeles Mastretta and Anne Enright: Querying Masculine Histories

Coughlan, Patricia (University College Cork)

This paper compares Mastretta’s Arráncame la vida (1985) and Enright's The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (2002). Both these successful women novelists write within a tradition dominated by male figures political and literary and devoted to strong national imperatives. Both focus on a female protagonist placed – as consort of a violent, dictatorial leader – at the heart of a significant and tumultuous history. In Mastretta’s case, this is the decades-long Mexican Revolution, and in Enright’s the devastating War of the Three Kingdoms in 1860s Paraguay. Others have discussed these writers’ framing of the ethical problems of women’s agency and complicity with violence. Instead this paper proposes a shared feminist aim: to reveal and challenge hegemonic masculinity in Irish and Mexican national literatures. Men's narrations of the sacrosanct topic of the Mexican Revolution have been dominant: Mastretta's female-centred fiction was adversely received in some quarters, and her novel repudiated as non-serious (citing its narrative imagery of popular songs, film icons, clothes, and its exploration of emotional experience). By the Paraguayan setting Enright gives a quasi-allegorical distance to her nevertheless sharp interrogation of equally masculinist Irish histories, with their focus on rebellion, bloody sacrifice, and sacred nationalist traditions.


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