Extravagant Passing: Spanish Masquerade in the American Literary Imagination
The dissertation discusses the figure and narrative of Spanish masquerade in the history of passing in American literature and culture, beginning with Spanish historias and English histories in the 16th and 17th centuries that provide a frame for the study of 19th century Chicana/o and African American literature. In the works by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá, John Smith, Herman Melville, Ellen Craft and William Craft, and María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, the manuscript provides literary readings, cultural history, and archival research, also making use of queer theory, post-colonial theory, and theories of mestiza consciousness in order to connect these particular case studies to a broader field of inquiry concerning boundary crossing and its representational practices. Whereas most critical readings on the history of passing concentrate on black-to-white performances of mobility, this dissertation introduces a new kind of passing that changes how we think about the traditional genre in order to explore how the variable of disability and illness cross-racially intervenes into the figure of the Spanish decadent colonial. Through readings of social moblity in these authors’ works, I generate a theory of extravagance, or surplus signification, in the performance of passing. A specific integer of extravagance’s operation and which the dissertation is interested is “Spanishness” as an added problem to extravagant passing. I thus situate the content of this study in the context of the traditional genre and recent theoretical discussions. The dissertation ultimately argues that by studying this confounding borderland figure what emerges is the missing historia in the history of passing, a ghosting of Spanishness in the American literary imagination, and a plural mode of subjectivity deployed by racial subjects, including la mestiza, where the dissertation uncovers a poetics of extravagance in la conciencia de la mestiza.