1st Edition

Américanas, Autocracy, and Autobiographical Innovation Overwriting the Dictator

By Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle Copyright 2020
    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    246 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Overwriting the Dictator is literary study of life writing and dictatorship in Americas. Its focus is women who have attempted to rewrite, or overwrite, discourses of womanhood and nationalism in the dictatorships of their nations of origin. The project covers five 20th century autocratic governments: the totalitarianism of Rafael Trujillo’s regime in the Dominican Republic, the dynasty of the Somoza family in Nicaragua, the charismatic, yet polemical impact of Juan and Eva Perón on the proletariat of Argentina, the controversial rule of Fidel Castro following Cuba’s 1959 revolution, and Augusto Pinochet’s coup d'état that transformed Chile into a police state. Each chapter traces emerging patterns of experimentation with autobiographical form and determines how specific autocratic methods of control suppress certain methods of self-representation and enable others. The book foregrounds ways in which women’s self-representation produces a counter-narrative that critiques and undermines dictatorial power with the depiction of women as self-aware, resisting subjects engaged in repositioning their gendered narratives of national identity.

    Introduction: "Impossible Autobiography: Women’s Life Writing and Twentieth Century Latin American Dictatorships"

    Chapter 1: "I Remember Trujillo: Trujillo en Mis Memorias Denial, Shame, Martyrdom, and Nostalgia in Dominican Women’s Memoir"

    Remembering Trujillo: The Memoir Boom

    Dictator as Tragic Hero: Aída Trujillo and the Shadow of Third-Person Memoir

    The Daughter and the Demi-God: Fugitive Acts in Flor de Oro Trujillo’s Memoir Exposé

    Memoir as "Casa-Museo": Dédé Mirabal’s Ritual Memorial and the Transmission of Memory

    Patremoir as Post-Dictatorial Counter-tour: Angelita Trujillo’s Publicly Private Nostalgia

    ¿Seguiré a Caballo?: Trujillo in the Twenty-first Century Imagination

    Chapter 2: "Dueña y Señora de Su Canto": Autobiographical Depictions of the New Nicaraguan Woman

    Poetic Interiorismo and "The Six": Why This Is Not Testimonio

    Milk Poems and Blood Poems: Womanhood, Embodiment, and the New Nicaraguan Woman

    The Mirror Poems: Refractory and Reciprocal Recognition

    Chapter 3: "‘Distinguished Ladies’ and the Doctrine of Chilean Womanhood: The ‘Anti-manuals’ of Diamela Eltit, Isabel Allende and Marjorie Agosín"

    The Distinguished Woman

    Auto-surveillance and Auto-performance in Diamela Eltit’s E. Luminata

    "Only a Woman Could Imagine a Story Like This": Desire and Patriotism in Isabel Allende’s Aphrodite and My Invented Country

    Marjorie Agosín’s Filial Narrative: Producing Genres of Liberation in the Next Generation

    Matremoir: A Cross and A Star

    Patremoir: Always from Somewhere Else

    Chapter 4: "Exile Memory and The Paradigmatic Before-and-After in Post-1959 Cuban Women’s Life Writing"

    Overwriting Fidel: Zoe Valdés on How a Leftist Dictator is Still a Dictator

    Revisionary Exile Memory

    "Salida Definitiva / Definitive Departure": Ruth Behar’s Autoethnographic Memory and the Impossibility of Return

    Reconciling the Irreconcilable

    Chapter 5: "‘There is No Need for Us to Speak of Eva Perón’: Evita’s Caudillagrafia"

    Caudillagrafia: Autobiography as Perónist Manifesto

    Doctrinary Overwriting: How to Hide a Dictator

    Shadow and Light

    The Condor and the Sparrow

    El Simulacro: Not Even the Peróns were the Peróns

    Old Eva / New Evita

    The "Benefactress"

    La Presidenta / La Resentida

    The Heart and the Womb of Argentina

    Conclusion: Self-less Self-representation

    Conclusion: "Common Denominators: Impossible Autobiographies"


    Lisa Ortiz-Vilarelle (PhD, English, Wayne State University, 2000) is Professor of English at The College of New Jersey. Her work appears in European Journal of Life Writing , a/b: Auto/Biography Studies , Life Writing Annual ,
    and Life Writing . Her research also appears in critical collections and anthologies, including Inhabiting La Patria : Identity, Agency, and Antojo in the Work of Julia Alvarez , edited by Emily Hipchen and Rebecca Harrison (2014). She was recently awarded the annual Hogan Prize (2018) by the editors of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies for recognition of an outstanding essay published in the journal. She has been a summer fellow at the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory (1998) and a visiting scholar in the Center for Biographical Research at the University of Hawai’i, at Manoa (summer 2018) and in the Departments of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies and English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, Edmonton (2020). She currently serves as Book Reviews Editor for a/b: Auto/Biography Studies.

    "Throughout the work, Ortiz-Vilarelle articulates her analyses with a number of scholars in autobiography studies, such as Paul John Eakin, Leigh Gilmore, Marianne Hirsch, and Sidonie Smith. The text succeeds in laying out the myriad strategies women writers use to bypass the impossibility of writing the self in autocratic environments."

    - Renata Lucena Dalmaso, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly