Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Méndez Rodenas, Adriana

First Committee Member

Filios, Denise

Second Committee Member

Lewis, Tom

Third Committee Member

Niño-Murcia, Mercedes

Fourth Committee Member

Gotkowitz, Laura


In Latin American literary history, writing has been primarily a male-dominated activity. It is not until the second part of the nineteenth century, when the first generation of women writers appeared, that the act of writing novels, essays, and poetry allowed them to have a voice in the public sphere. Through their writings, women authors redefined women's roles in a society strongly influenced by patriarchal beliefs. This dissertation focuses on three authors from the Peru and Argentina: Clorinda Matto de Turner (1852-1909), Mercedes Cabello de Carbonera (1842-1909) and Juana Manuela Gorriti (1818-1892), and has two principal aims. The first is to demonstrate that, through the act of writing, these women writers crossed the boundaries from the private sphere of the home to the public arena of political action. I argue that, once they entered the public space, they openly expressed their opinions about how to improve the social situation of women, concentrating most of their efforts on supporting women's education as a path to social and economic independence. As a second aim, I analyze a set of novels in depth to show that by representing women as subjects in their novels, these nineteenth-century women writers contradicted the patriarchal-liberal ideology that defined women primarily as objects. Some of the existing research on nineteenth-century women writers argues that their representations of women reinforced patriarchal beliefs, since female characters were still kept within the limits of the domestic realm. However, my research shows that there was an important resistance to patriarchal-liberal constraints in Matto, Cabello and Gorrriti' writings. Applying the theory of scholars such as Mary Poovey, Bridget Aldaraca, and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, I show that even though women characters in these novels do not leave the house to participate completely in public life, they start to exert control over their own lives and become more independent. Thus, I demonstrate that women writers portrayed their female characters as the initiators of political action with direct implications in the public sphere. Women characters also protest against the marginalized conditions of other social and ethnic groups. Female characters reinforce the need for a secular education for women, which can provide them with knowledge in the sciences and arts, and hence with means to become professionals. Women characters and their authors move between the private and the public spheres in order to make their voices heard. This was a real challenge for women in a century that witnessed many changes in social and political life; however, none of those changes aimed at providing women the rights of independence and full participation in the public sphere.


gender, literature, women, XIX century


vii, 252 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 246-252).


Copyright 2012 Fanny Rocio Roncal Ramirez