Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Antonio Isea

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Montilla

Third Advisor

Dr. Benjamin Torres

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Zulema Moret


Gender and sexuality in the 21st century


From its inception Latin American literature has used gender and sexuality as rhetorical devices to approach the topic of cultural identity. For instance, Hernán Cortés in his Cartas de Relación embodies a type of masculinity that overdetermined the lives of the Amerindian people. Centuries later, the modernismo movement headed by Rubén Darío reacted to a Latin American societal shift towards the prevalence of a materialistic culture brought about by the advent of industrial civilization. During the 1960s Latin American literature experienced a rapid blooming that has come to be known as El Boom. Both landmarks, modernism and El Boom, portrayed genders in a narrow manner. On the one hand, in modernismo poetry women are “silent, virginal princesses or femmes fatales” (Montilla 32) and on the other hand El Boom, formed exclusively by male authors, represented female characters as witches (Magnarelli 149) or as a stunting force, holding back male characters (Magnarelli 106). Unlike previous authors, Latin American writers in the twenty-first century, re-discovered a continent in which particular cultural identities had been strategically disavowed (Volpi 170). This dissertation aims to analyze representations of gender, sexuality and masculinity in six twenty-first century novels.

Chapter one analyzes Sudor (2016) and No ficción (2015) by Chilean author Alberto Fuguet. The two novels portray very similar characters. They are gay, wealthy, urban and well-educated. Their relationship is further solidified by their common interest in the commercialization of literature and cinema. The chapter analyzes how both novels “translate the abstract discourses of sexual modernity into accessible and legible [narrative] form[s]” (Farmer 85). The second chapter examines Abril rojo (2009) and La pena máxima (2014) by Peruvian author Santiago Roncagliolo, where Félix Chacaltana, the protagonist of both novels, embarks in criminal investigations during convulsive periods of recent Peruvian history. The chapter reveals that in uncertain times, hegemonic masculinities emerge as a way to “unify” a divided nation. In both novels, soccer and the armed forces embody cultural spaces that fostered the proliferation of hegemonic masculinities. The third chapter analyzes Ladrilleros (2013) which, unlike the novels examined in the two previous chapters, takes place in a rural setting. The novel, written by the Argentinean Selva Almada, narrates the final moments of its male protagonists’ lives. The chapter examines the construction of an adult form of rural masculinity that is marked by homophobia and lethal violence. The last chapter analyzes La muerte me da (2007) by Mexican writer Cristina Rivera Garza. In the novel, the main character, a female professor of literature, discovers a castrated body and solves a series of homicides due to her knowledge of Alejandra Pizarnik’s poetry. The chapter analyzes the way in which this novel depicts the role of the Spanish language as a problematic creator of gender difference.

The six novels analyzed in this dissertation offer a must needed re-writing of gender, sexuality and masculinity within Latin American literature.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access