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Dominicanas presentes : gender, migration, and history's legacy in Dominican literature


This dissertation argues that geographical displacement has partly defined Dominican national identity as constructed in literary discourses since the country's founding. This entanglement between migration or exile and the nation is most evident in the work of marginalized subjects, including men in the diaspora and women, due to their tenuous relationship to the nation. Each chapter provides a different angle on this issue through several genealogies of alternative, non-patriarchal visions of the Dominican literary and intellectual tradition. My readings of these texts, which include the poetry and epistolary of a nineteenth-century female poet, two recent novels written in the US by Dominican men, an essay that conveys the overlaps between African and Dominican diaspora subjectivities, and popular news from the Dominican Republic and the US, challenge the notion that traditional Dominican nationalism is based on the union between the woman/Land and the man/People in Latin American national romances. The first chapter charts a matrilineal genealogy starting with nineteenth-century poet Salomé Ureña based on the idea of "absence"--the absence of many Dominicans from the homeland and a missing readership that can truly appreciate the work of excluded subjects--as the unifying thread between Ureña and future Dominican women writers. The second chapter proposes that memoirs by three Trujillo descendants rely on problematic historical erasures and domesticate Trujillo as a kindly pater familias in order to elide his cruelty as the nation's patriarch. At the other end of the ideological spectrum, chapter three argues that Trujillo's power was so exorbitant that only the language of the supernatural can adequately describe it. It focuses on two recent novels written in the diaspora and notes that Trujillo's and other leaders' seemingly occult power is intrinsically patriarchal. The fourth chapter focuses on recent works by Dominican women writers that comment on the various kinds of transnationalism that have transformed the country. I show that, though transnationalism can be liberatory and subversive, it can also reinforce the patriarchal underpinnings of the nation. Finally, the conclusion meditates on how works by Dominican women writers are published and disseminated within national, regional, and global contexts

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