Subversive Frontiers: Space, Gender and Literature in Colonial Latin America

Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2009

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Romance Languages and Literature: Hispanic Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



In this dissertation I examine the construction of space, gender, and literary form in the Spanish American colonies as represented in Mateo Rosas de Oquendo’s Sátira hecha por Mateo Rosas de Oquendo a las cosas que pasan en el Pirú, ano de 1598, Bartolomé de Arzáns Orsúa y Vela’s Historia de la villa imperial de Potosí, and La verdad sospechosa by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón. I argue that the space of the New World is a frontier which promotes new representations of gender that differ from those in peninsular Spain. The first chapter establishes a theoretical framework for this discussion through an analysis of the frontier, early modern gender paradigms, and the historical context of colonial Latin America. In Chapter Two, I argue that the women in the Sátira employ nontraditional behaviors to form in-between representations of femininity that break the early modern heterosexual binary of gender. The structure of the poem parallels this gender representation because the literary forms the author uses create a frontier-like in-between text. In Chapter Three I question how Arzáns creates a stable Creole city in the weakened mining center in the Historia. Due to the historical realities of Potosí, Arzáns constructs cross-dressed women as models representative of colonial Creole culture and thereby challenges the view that women did not have a role in the creation of societies and cultures. In Chapter Four I examine La verdad sospechosa in which Alarcón’s representation of Spain from a colonial perspective indicates how the New World manifestations of gender explored in Chapters One and Two impact Old World society. The movement of ideas and behaviors between continents highlights the twoway cultural exchange that occurred throughout the colonial era. The structure of the play follows this path and underlines the contradictions in the author’s own identity as a Creole who migrated to the peninsula. In total, my dissertation questions how space and gender are implicated in the transformation and creation of cultural ideologies. The nature of the frontier fosters the subversive gender representations in these texts and reveals that new possibilities for gender are created through alternative spatial practice.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Stephanie Kirk

Committee Members

Nina Davis, Mary Ann Dzuback, Linda Niclson, Elzbieta Sklodowska, Claire Solomon


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