Women and the War Story in Mexico

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This book explores how women are represented in novels written by women which have conflict as their central thematic concern. The Revolution was the zero hour of twentieth century Mexican national discourse. Even while the war was being fought, writers felt the need to engage with the mythologies of that discourse and write their own versions of events. From these early witness accounts there developed a genre which would evolve to challenge the all-pervasive imagining of the nation on an institutional level. As a result, the Revolution was a pivotal event for writers. Heretofore, in the main, critical studies have only examined writing by men, while women’s contribution to this genre has been marginalized and ignored. This book provides a unique insight into the many roles which women had in the Revolution and assesses the complex and varied styles employed by three significant, and in many ways controversial, Mexican authors: Elena Garro, Elena Poniatowska, and Ángeles Mastretta. This is an important book which makes a significant contribution to the international debates which examine women’s many roles in wartime.


“In this work, Dr. Niamh Thornton has provided us with an illuminating and rigorously executed study of the representation of women in conflict situations. Selected texts of twentieth-century Mexican literature are given detailed examination. The study has as its primary focus works by women writers, Elena Garro, Elena Poniatowska and Angeles Mastretta. By way of prolegomenon to the study, the author also examines canonical texts by selected male Mexican authors in order to study their representations of women during the Mexican Revolution … This study calls for a revalorization of the ways in which women have been represented in contexts of war and conflict. A hegemonic male-centered view of Mexico’s turbulent twentieth-century Revolutionary period has held sway through the greater part of the last century. However, since the 1960s, re-readings of the role of women in the Revolution have come to the fore, and displaced that centered hegemony. Through her differential analyses of her chosen texts, Dr. Thornton has provided vibrant accounts of narrative innovation and plurality that betoken a gestation of radically different ways of imagining twentieth-century Mexican life in times of conflict.” – (from the Preface) Professor Ciaran Cosgrove, University of Dublin

“ ... This work links post-boom writing on the Mexican Revolution to the earlier male-dominated tradition (Azuela, Rulfo, Fuentes) and shows how the novel of the Mexican Revolution has been both extended and reworked by three women writers (Garro, Poniatowska, Mastretta) ... The (mis)representation of women in the literature of the Mexican Revolution, fictional and historical, is a topic examined in depth. The positive and creative contributions of Mexican women to the Revolution is another. This is a timely, refreshing and welcome addition to the existing corpus of critical studies of the novel of the Mexican Revolution. More broadly, studies in the area of gender and conflict are emerging as a growing area of research and publication, and this monograph may well lead the way for further research on representations of gender and conflict in Latin American literary and cultural texts.” – Professor Chris Harris, University of Liverpool

“ ... Dr. Thornton has managed to put together an overall, panoramic view of the novel of the Revolution as a whole and of related topics without which women’s writing on the same revolution cannot be full perceived, assessed and understood ... The relevant areas and aspects covered, and the author’s perceptive powers in her analysis, lead one to think that in fact this is – should become – an essential primer for anyone studying or interested in studying Mexican, and by extension, Latin American literature ...” – Professor Salomon Meckled-Morkos, Middesex University, U.K.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Just Warriors and Beautiful Souls
1. Tumulto y hojarasca: Gender, War and Nationalism in Mexico
2. The novela de la revolución: Genesis and Exegesis
3. Questioning Universal Givens: Time, History and Truth in Elena Garro’s Los recuerdos del porvenir
4. Fighting Invisibility: Women Revolutionaries in Elena Poniatowska’s Hasta no verte Jesús mío
5. Boleros as an Escape: Revolution and Popular Culture in Arráncame la vida by Ángeles Mastretta
Conclusion: From the Past to the Future

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