Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Adriana Méndez Rodenas
This dissertation analyzes the representation of sugar plantation societies in nineteenth and twentieth century Puerto Rican literature. Using an interdisciplinary approach, I study the socio-historical, political, and economic development of the sugarcane industry in Puerto Rico as represented in the literary works of Manuel Zeno Gandía, Enrique A. Laguerre, René Marqués, and Rosario Ferré.
Scholars have tended to examine their works separately; however, I study how these writers from different literary generations develop a cohesive literary project, reshuffling the periodization of Puerto Rican literature by their focus on the sugar industry. Consequently, the literary works intersect with each other to provide a complete picture of the evolution and decline of the sugar plantation and its effects on the social imaginary of Puerto Rico. I use this term to mean both social practices of Puerto Rican society as well as its class stratification and political struggles.
My theoretical approach is based on Antonio Benítez Rojo, "The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective" (1992), where the sugar plantation is defined as the principal unifying entity across the Caribbean, repeated continuously through time and space. I also rely on socio-historiographical approaches developed by Ramiro Guerra, Francisco Scarano, and Ángel Quintero Rivera, whose analyses of the sugar cane industry in the Caribbean shed light on class conflicts, primarily between the sugar oligarchy and factory workers.
This dissertation suggests a homology between the socioeconomic structure of the sugar plantation and the Puerto Rican literary canon. I conclude that Puerto Rican writers have recoded the imaginary of the plantation in response to political events and economic shifts within the sugar industry. While Manuel Zeno Gandía and René Marqués promote and redefine its value system, other writers, such as Enrique A. Laguerre and Rosario Ferré, have transgressed the hacienda system to articulate the voice of those communities marginalized by the sugar plantation.
Caribbean, Colonialism, Interdisciplinary Approach, Puerto Rican Literature, Sugar Plantation, transgressions
x, 322 pages
Includes bibliographical references (pages 308-322).
Copyright 2013 Tania Carrasquillo