Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Irma M López

Second Advisor

Dr. Mercedes Tasende

Third Advisor

Dr. Patricia Montilla

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Mayra Fortes


National identity and sexuality, Bildungsroman, language and gender, gender and sexuality, culture and sexuality, language and sexuality


The search for identity in twentieth-century Spanish-language literature has primarily been seen through the rewriting of history to better suit new generations. For instance, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez’s novel about the origins of Colombia and Latin America, fictionalizes historical facts and rewrites history to question the very identity of Latin American countries. However, the search for identity in twenty-first-century Spanish language novels is unique in the sense that it does not look for identity through history, but through sexuality. Due to the lack of research in this area, the purpose of this study is to demonstrate how sexuality is an effective way to search for and express gender, sexual, and even national identity in twenty-first-century Pan-Hispanic literary works.

Chapter one of this study analyzes Cuerpo náufrago (Shipwrecked Body, 2005) by Mexican writer Ana Clavel. In this novel, Antonia, the protagonist, wakes up one morning only to discover she has become a man overnight. Such a change forces her to embark on a journey in which she seeks to understand the masculine identity in reference to her feminine identity through the exploration of her sexuality. The second chapter examines En busca de Klingsor (In Search of Klingsor, 1999) by Mexican writer Jorge Volpi, where an elderly scientist remembers the relationship among male scientists during the Second World War as being homoerotic, comparing the drive to achieve nuclear power to the men’s powerful sexual drive. Furthermore, the third chapter focuses on Nosotras que no somos como las demás (We, Who Are Not Like Other Women, 1999) by Spanish writer Lucía Etxebarria, where the female protagonists question the depiction of women in Spanish-language literature and popular culture, as well as their place in society. Finally, chapter four studies This is How You Lose Her (2012) by Dominican- American writer Junot Díaz, which explores the question of nationality through the very sexual performance of the characters, especially the main narrator, a male immigrant from the Dominican Republic, who grew up in New Jersey.

In other words, although these writers are from three different countries that are situated in two continents, and one of them has chosen to write in English, their texts highlight the questioning of gender, sexual, or even national identities within their respective Hispanic culture or subculture by means of sexuality. In these novels, sexuality becomes the preferred mode of communication, transcending language expression, and rendering it and culture inadequate in the pursuit of individuality. This study provides an important contribution to the discipline and to the critical conversation on sexual, gender, and national identity in contemporary Pan-Hispanic literature and culture.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access