Year of Publication

2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Hispanic Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Enrico M. Santí

Abstract

My thesis grows out of a reflection on Cuban literature, race, and national identity within the broader framework of the canon and its marginal literature. It explores the dynamics of the Cuban canon and specific visions of race and nation, and studies one play, two novels, a book of poems and a radio script from four different moments in Cuban history.

Fernández Vilarós´s play Los negros catedráticos (1868) sets for the first time the topic of race at the center of the national debate, immediately before the first and longest Cuban independence war.

The play contrasts with Cecilia Valdés (1882), arguably the most canonical Cuban novel, with its subversive remake, Sofía (1891) and analyzes how the former seeks to conceal the nation’s racially-mixed character and present the mulata condition as a mere border-line. Sofía, however, erases this line and expands the mulata condition to everyone. Following this reading, it seeks to identify a set of markers that configures a mulato discourse in Regino Boti´s Arabescos mentales (1913). It proposes that the characteristic tendency toward elitism in Latin American Modernismo is actually a racial device to accomplish racial equality. And so language (and poetry) emerges in Boti as the most efficient vehicle to resolve racial deficiency.

Finally, the thesis studies the script of the most successful Latino American soap opera ever, El derecho de nacer (1948), by Félix B. Caignet. Here Caignet converges the Villaverde´s idea of race as an objective value with Boti’s White idealization. He also proposes symbolic or cultural whitening as the only vehicle of social improvement.

In conclusion, the common denominator of all four works is the representation of mulatez as an absolute and objective fact, as opposed to the marginal Sofía, which presents it as relative and subjective. Therefore, despite the traditional national discourse of Cuba as a racially-mixed country, the canon has banned those works that actually support this postulate.

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